Najifa Farhat

(Missoula Current) Hundreds of individuals assembled on Friday in a vibrant pride rally outside the Missoula County Courthouse to commemorate Pride Month and to initiate discussions on the rights, political landscape and celebration of the queer community in Missoula and nationwide.

The unique and colorful event attracted individuals from diverse backgrounds, including city officials, politicians and community members, all eager to raise their voices in support of queer rights.

Missoula Mayor Jordan Hess reaffirmed the city's stance on equality, declaring "We will not tolerate discrimination and hate in Missoula. Moving forward, every decision will be approached with an equity lens, allowing us to combat discrimination and create opportunities."

Various interest groups dispatched their representatives to advocate for the needs and aspirations of queer communities, aiming to reinforce the significance of Pride Month. Montana Two Spirit Society Missoula, in remembrance of the indigenous Native American ancestors who faced persecution due to their queerness, emphasized the ongoing threats and dangers confronting tribal communities.

Leo Thompson, a spokesperson for the organization, underscored this point in his speech stating, "The violence our community endures is often underestimated. Statisticians and tribal and non-tribal governments attempt to quantify our struggles by combining LGBTQ+ and indigenous community statistics. However, we know that these figures fail to capture the true extent of the missing persons and murders."

Politicians voiced their disapproval of the hostility directed towards queer individuals during the recent Montana legislative session, urging the public to elect more queer representatives into government positions.

Representative SJ Howell, who identifies as queer, labeled the session a disaster, saying "Some of my colleagues proposed agendas that attacked queer and transgender individuals, neglecting housing, community healthcare, and even property tax relief. Nevertheless, I am proud that constituents turned up at committee meetings, demonstrating their lack of support for these lawmakers."

Gwen Nicholson, a political candidate running for the Missoula City Council, echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing the collective struggle for oppressed individuals.

"As queer people, we have a world to win. The plight of one oppressed person reflects the struggle of all oppressed people," Nicholson proclaimed.

They further acknowledged the unique opportunities that exist in Missoula, transcending class and racial boundaries, and providing a more comprehensive understanding of community dynamics through the lens of queerness.