Personal Essay by Westchester Legislator MaryJane Shimsky
It's been one heck of a year so far.
With Coronavirus and the murder of George Floyd, there's been one existential crisis after another — and we're not even talking about the predictions of a bad hurricane season yet. It's at a time like this when we really appreciate our communities and each other.
Pride Month is the focal point of the calendar for the LGBTQ+ community.
It's unfortunate that The LOFT's celebration of Pride Month had to be virtual this year — the energy and the fun at the live gathering are so meaningful to so many Westchester residents. But good virtual events are keeping churches, civic bodies, and other organizations together, and they will help keep the LGBTQ+ community together as well.
In fact, since many people who cannot attend a live event are attending through Zoom or another conferencing provider, many Zoom events actually have better attendance than their live counterparts.
I think that we'll have to find ways to provide Zoom alternatives for our live events in the future. That way, people who may be too frail, recovering from illness or injury, or taking care of a family member at home can join in on at least some of the fun and fellowship.
In my nine years on the Board of Legislators, I have celebrated the successes and achievements of the LGBTQ+ community with you. We have also talked about how much more needs to be done.
There are still young people being rejected by their families; senior citizens in assisted living and nursing homes feel the need to go back into the closet, and discrimination of all members of the LGBTQ+ community may not be as prevalent as it once was in this part of the world, but it is still a reality.
One issue that has captured the imagination of some leaders in the LGBTQ+ community is housing.
It's no secret that housing affordability is a huge issue in Westchester County. Many people are in need of affordable housing — housing designed for people of low and moderate incomes. But housing is so expensive through most of Westchester County, that all but the truly wealthy feel a major financial hit when it's time to pay the rent or pay the mortgage.
Right now, though, it seems as if progress is hard to come by because we are fighting twin plagues, one medical and one moral.
Coronavirus has swept through the LGBTQ+ community, with seniors and people of color particularly hard hit. Throughout its history, the LGBTQ+ community has been no stranger to police violence and police callousness.
The murder of George Floyd, playing night after night on our video screens, has given rise to a reform movement that is sweeping the country's streets, city halls and statehouses. Starting with the Black-transgender protestors at Stonewall, Black members of the LGBTQ+ community have played a critical role in the Pride movement.
This may be a Pride Month unlike any that came before, but there is still much to celebrate, and much left to accomplish. I am proud to stand with you and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with you. Continue to be healthy and safe, and Happy Pride Month!