Born this way: Members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Garfield County share what pride means to them
Francisco Muneton-Germano said he doesn’t feel safe showing affection for his husband in public, but that doesn’t stop them from doing it.
“I might be at risk holding my husband’s hand in public. We might be in danger, but that risk exists already, so why not do something about it. … If you have the opportunity to make someone reflect and think, take it,” Muneton-Germano said.
A 24-year-old medical assistant in Parachute-Battlement Mesa, Muneton-Germano is also actively involved with nonprofits in Garfield County, including Voces Unidas. He and his husband are coming up on their second anniversary, but living where they do he said they feel isolated more often than not. Because Muneton-Germano is Latino, he said the machismo and masculine expectations for men — what some call the “norm” — has caused pushback on who he is from other members of the Latino community and his family.
“I love my Mexican heritage, my Mexican roots. But our culture is very against the gay community,” Muneton-Germano said. “In my religion specifically, too, it’s been really hard for me to open up and have that sense of community in my family. So I really, really depended for a long time on my friends, and I love the word ‘chosen family,’ because to me it means I get to choose the people that I get to call family. I have my biological family and who I grew up with, but at the end of the day there’s only so much support that they can give me, because I am gay.”
June is Pride Month, but it holds a different meaning to every member of the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual) community. Web Heyliger, for instance, doesn’t hesitate to pop on a pair of high heels and bring out his J. Lo Barbies, but he said he knows that because he was homeschooled he didn’t experience the bullying he would have been faced with otherwise.
“There’s bullying for gay people. Sadly we’ve lost a lot of them, because they’ve (died by) suicide for being bullied, especially on the internet,” Heyliger said. “But I think now the majority of the young people thrive and get it. Everytime I post a picture in heels with Barbies I get the most likes. … Why? Because I’m being myself.”
Michelle Marlow is an event planner by trade and merged Carbondale’s annual Family Block Party with a Pride Parade in 2019, a decision that was backed by the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) club at Carbondale Middle School. After the 2020 pandemic, they’ll be hosting the combination of events for the second time this September.
“We’re just all excited that we are going to be doing this, we’ll be able to gather as a community and celebrate seeing everybody together again, everybody,” Marlow said. “The whole concept of the GSA is they all wear shirts that say ‘be you,’ and that’s really what it’s all about.”
Travis Wilson said living in Glenwood Springs feels a lot more diverse than the town in Western Georgia he grew up in. Even though he’s found more of a community here, especially in the local theater scene, Wilson said during the Black Lives Matter vigil in Rifle last summer it became even more apparent of the racism that still exists among LGBTQIA+ folks.
“If you want a diverse community, you accept all walks of life. We’re white cis gay men. I have friends who are non-binary and people of color. You need to include everybody, because there is a whole spectrum,” Wilson said. “I feel like a lot of the time there are these cliques, and if you just have these little cliques, you’re not going to have a community. … I would say to young people, be friends with everyone. Everyone. As long as they’re not being mean to you, be a friend.”
In Heyliger’s experience, he said older generations, in and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community, need to come to terms that there isn’t only one way to be gay. He added that he’s been told he should repress parts of his personality to a certain extent, but to repress even part of himself feels like he isn’t allowed to be himself at all.
“I certainly didn’t expect that from gay people. … Like I thought this was the whole thing, I thought this was the safest place, and then it ended up really not being. … For the older men it’s definitely just that they need to listen more because they’re not doing it. And they think being gay is this one way and no other way,” Heyliger said.
Although Pride Month is in June, it doesn’t mean LGBTQIA+ individuals aren’t living out their identities every other day of the year as well. Some spaces are more accepting than others, some communities more encouraging, but when it comes down to it, Muneton-Germano said he made the decision to not live his life in fear and instead be authentic and work to challenge preconceived notions others may have just by choosing to not suppress himself or his love.
“It really went from being fearful to being unapologetic, and just embracing who I am as a person. Being a person of color, being a gay person, all of that,” Muneton-Germano said. “Pride is not a one-size fits all. It really does vary, because it’s those experiences that shape us and make us who we are, the way we think, the way we live our lives. What pride means to me is not the same thing that pride means to someone else, and I think that is what’s so cool about it.”
Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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