Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Is Detroit on its way to becoming a gay-friendly city?

Photo by Marvin Shaouni
(originally published 6/9/15 in Model D)

A vivid memory from early June, 2011: I'm at Motor City Pride in Hart Plaza. The annual lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community festival is being held in Detroit for the first time in 10 years (having moved, not without controversy, from downtown Ferndale). It's sunny, warm, a perfect day. I'm standing around, chatting with friends, when I look up at the 72 story Renaissance Center and pause. "Is that…?"

Sure enough, it is: the recently installed LED lights that ring the tops of the complex's five tubular towers, normally a shade of GM-brand blue, are subtly but certainly cycling through the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. We all stop talking and watch, a little dumbfounded, a little incredulous, at this unexpectedly prominent display of our community's colors. Is this Detroit -- our own hometown?

GM's decision to temporarily turn its imposing hood ornament of a headquarters into a monumental beacon of inclusion and welcoming was an unprecedented move in these parts. (A move that, four years on, we might already be taking for granted. 2015's Motor City Pride festival took place in Hart Plaza last weekend, and the Ren Cen's now-familiar ROYGBIV show started like clockwork on Friday night.)

The pride festival's wildly successful return to Detroit, GM's high-profile show of support, and now, just last week, the first-ever Detroit Tigers' Pride Night,attended by more than 1,400 LGBT individuals -- these are bold signifiers of cultural change. As our hardscrabble metropolis continues its 21st century evolution, is it finally learning to put its big, strong arms around the diverse and beleaguered LGBT community that calls it home? Signs point to yes. Let's take a look at the efforts of some thoughtful, committed people who are working hard to make Detroit a more welcoming place for all.