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Dozens march in Alpena in support of LGBTQIA+ community

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz About 100 people marched in Alpena to support the LGBTQIA+ community Saturday. Organizers say the march was to help promote acceptance, love and pride.

Pride, love and acceptance.

Those are three words that could best describe Saturday’s pride march in Alpena that brought out about 100 people who were clad in rainbow attire and carried flags and signs of support for the LGBTQIA+ community.

The event, which was promoted as non-political, did include several Black Lives Matter signs mixed in with the crowd during the march.

The parade began at 11 a.m. at the beginning of the Great Lakes Maritime Trail and ended at Culligan Plaza downtown.

The event was made possible because of the work done by the Alpena Community College Takes Pride LGBTQ+ and Thunder Bay Theater, which distributed small rainbow flags to those wishing to carry and display them.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Small rainbow flags were distributed before the march to those who wanted to wave or display them during the march. The parade began at the beginning of the Great Lakes Maritime Trail and concluded at Culligan Plaza.

The support came from people of all ages and there were even several dogs who enjoyed the walk along the Thunder Bay River.

Todd Graham has lived in Alpena for a little more than two years. He explained the primary goal of the march was to simply to show support for LGBTQIA+ community.

“First, we want to show people we are here, there is nothing to be afraid of, we’re not different from anybody else, we just don’t want to be treated differently than everybody else,” Graham said.

Graham said in the two plus years he has lived in Alpena, he has noticed a shift in how members of the LGBTQIA+ community are viewed and treated. He said at first his boyfriend wouldn’t hold his hand in public out of fear of harassment, but over time that feeling has subsided.

“We were on Second Avenue and I grabbed his hand and he told me we can’t do that in this town,” he said. “Since then though, we feel comfortable. Maybe it is more us because we don’t care, because we shouldn’t have to care, but I do think the community has grown much more open and accepting.”

Ely Irving has lived in Alpena all his life. He said it may appear there is more acceptance and support, but he added that he believes it is a false illusion and people aren’t as accepting as they let on.

Irving said he hopes down the road that will change, but he has his doubts because of how and what kids are taught by their families.

“I think the LGBTQ community has been tolerated by this community, but I can’t say at all that it has been accepted,” Irving said. “I think a large portion of the people in this town are homophobic and to go an extra step, racist. I hope things improve, but I don’t see that being the case.”

Devin Wirgau said he is straight, but has friends who are gay. He said other than their sexuality, they are no different than anyone else and should be treated the same on all accounts.

“They smile, laugh and cry,” Wirgau said. “They get scared, they get angry and experience every single emotion that everyone else does. They don’t deserve to be treated differently because of who they love. I believe in that strongly and that is why I’m here to march today.”

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