June is officially Pride Month in Cranston.
On Monday, for the first time, the rainbow flag representing the LGBTQIA community was flown over Cranston City Hall as part of a celebration organized by Ward 1 Councilwoman Lammis Vargas.
A short time later, during the City Council’s regular monthly meeting, a resolution designating June as Pride Month in the city was approved unanimously.
“Today is about flying the Pride flag with pride, so that anyone coming by our City Hall building will know that we are welcoming here – that they can be who they are in our City Hall, in our schools and in our neighborhoods, and be supported and encouraged and loved,” Vargas said.
Other officials echoed Vargas’ sentiment during the ceremony.
“I’ve been mayor for 10½ half years, and this is the very first time anyone has approached us about celebrating the diversity we have in our community and raising the Pride flag,” he said. “It is a very special honor to be here … Today, we raise the Pride flag as we represent an inclusive community, and we recognize all the individuals in our city, and we are proud of diverse community and population.”
Council President Michael Farina praised Vargas for initiating the Pride observance and spoke of the collaborative support for the effort.
“It really is amazing when someone comes up with an idea, and says let’s do it, and we do it,” he said. “For me, this flag represents every color of the rainbow. It represents our neighbors, our friends, our families. People are people, love is love, and love should always win.”
Pride celebrations – held in June across the nation – mark the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, which were formative in the history of the gay rights movement. This year is the 50th anniversary of the historic event.
The occasion now also serves as a celebration of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry. Rhode Island made same-sex marriage legal in 2013.
Vargas said her push for a local observance of Pride Month began at home.
“As I attended events recognizing and celebrating June as Pride Month, a family member posed the question to me, ‘So when is Cranston’s rainbow flag raising?’ And he was right. It was a good question to ask,” she said. “And as I sat in the Diversity Commission meeting … just a couple of weeks ago, it was refreshing to me that many groups represented at the table know how important inclusion is.”
From there, Vargas reached out to other council members and to the mayor’s office, where she found quick support for the effort.
“Here in Cranston, we have such a rich diversity of ethnic, cultural, gender and sexual identities … making sure we are inclusive is one of my many priorities,” she said.
Marti Rosenberg, who has lived in Rhode Island for more than 30 years and in the Edgewood neighborhood since 1999, also spoke during Monday’s ceremony. She has been an activist and lobbyist on many issues crucial to the LGBTQ community.
“Why is the Pride flag so important? … It is a strong, visible symbol that we are seen and we are welcome,” she said. “For many, the first step in the visibility process is coming out to friends and family. The next step for some us was embracing the idea that we could do the things that we couldn’t do – such as having children. Having kids and being part of this community in Cranston meant my kids’ friends had maybe the best way of describing the importance of LGBT visibility. They saw our family, they were part of a community with our family, and they go it. The kids easily got it.”
Rosenberg thanked Vargas for her efforts.
“Every person who wants to see themselves as represented in our community – young people, senior citizens and everybody in between – can know that Cranston sees us, and that we are part of the Cranston community along with everybody else,” she said.
Rosenberg introduced James Angily, a sophomore at Cranston High School East who established the transgender youth group.
“I wanted to start this club as a way for students who are transgender, questioning their identity, or someone who supports the LGBTQ community to have a safe space in the school where they could learn more about the transgender experience,” he said. “It is also a way for teachers to learn how to respect students names and pronouns.”
Angilly also gave a brief history about his own identity.
“I’ve known since I was 11 years old that I was born in the wrong body,” he said. “I came out three weeks into my freshman year in high school, and have gotten nothing but love, support and acceptance. It took me a long time to feel valid and OK with who I was becoming. The moment I got my first injection of testosterone, I immediately felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew it was time to be the person I was meant to be.”
Angilly, Rosenberg and Vargas shared in the honor of raising the flag. It will be flown for the rest of the month.