Lafayette Navy Veteran Joins Fight for Pride Month Proclamation
(WARNING: This story and the second video attached include language that may be offensive to some.)
Members of Lafayette’s LGBTQ community, including a veteran of the United States Armed Forces, continue their calls for Mayor-President Josh Guillory to declare Pride Month in Lafayette.
Members of the Lafayette chapter of PFLAG and their allies spoke during the public comments portion of the Lafayette Parish Council meeting. PFLAG president Matthew Humphrey accused Guillory of playing politics instead of backing his constituents.
“Kids are growing up who are scared to come out and who are dealing with the same stuff that I did, and they’re hearing you not do a thing," Humphrey said. "You do realize that your silence speaks volumes. What are you afraid of, Josh? Why are you afraid of me?
“You said you didn’t feel as though ceremonial recognition of our group was the role of government. You’ve done it dozens of times since you’ve taken office. So I ask: What are you afraid of? Physically, it’s a piece of paper and a handshake with me in front of cameras. I understand it will cost you politically, but you have a lot of time for reelection, and we know that’s what it’s about.”
Humphrey and the other speakers argued that the Pride Month declaration would help children who are struggling to get acceptance from their friends and family see that there are other people like them who will support them. For most of those speakers, including a Navy veteran, acceptance is something they still seek.
“My dad beat the life out of me when he found a note that a girl had written to me because that was going to be my first girlfriend," K'Shawn Coleman said. "She was so welcoming to me, but when he found this note, he beat the shit out of me.”
Coleman was 16 when her father beat her. A few years later, Coleman joined the Navy. She served from 2001 to 2006, during the height of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."
“There were a lot of my friends that I made in the military that we found a bond because we were all gay and we couldn’t tell anybody," Coleman said. "We had to find out own special spots to go. They didn’t have the American Military Association like they do right now. It was: If they find out, (we’d get) no benefits, no nothing.”
Coleman moved to Lafayette 15 years ago after leaving the armed forces. Coleman says it's a shame Lafayette doesn’t recognize Pride Month or the LGBTQ community’s contributions.
“I have to go somewhere else to be with a group of friends that I love dearly in order to celebrate pride instead of my own city, and I don’t think that’s right.”
Coleman knows LGBTQ children and teens still have the same struggle she faced.
She has this message for families of those children.
“Love them. That’s all they're looking for. They're looking for the unconditional love that they don't necessarily feel from themselves. They already feel strange in their own skin, and they don't want to feel that, and it starts at home."
Mayor-President Guillory did not explicitly say if he would or would not sign a proclamation declaring Pride Month in Lafayette. When asked, Guillory said, "We're all God's children." He followed up by saying LCG will defend the rights of all Lafayette residents with or without a Pride Month proclamation.
“I don’t have anything against Pride Month," Guillory said. "If you want to have Pride Month, have Pride Month. One of the speakers mentioned that whether we issue a proclamation or not, it doesn’t change anything. As a local government, we have to make sure we don’t do anything that’s needlessly provocative. People will take what I say and interpret it a certain way, but I’ve been very clear. I support equality. I do not believe the government should infringe on anybody’s right or discriminate based on your sexual orientation. I’ve always had that stance. I’ve been a warrior for equality. My record shows that both before I was a mayor-president and as a mayor-president. We will not tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation, your race, your gender, or any of the other protected classes by our law.”