Guest Contributor: Keelia Silvis. Keelia is a queer scientist who believes in the power of communication, advocacy, and civic engagement. She has been a member of the ACLU since November of 2016.

I have always loved  Twin Cities Pride. The rainbows, body glitter, and celebratory atmosphere drew me to Loring Park every June. Before coming out, I enjoyed attending the parade and festival as an ally. After coming out, each year Pride gave me greater confidence in my own identity and warmer hope for the future of LGBTQIA+ rights.

Then Pulse happened.
 
Over a year later the memory of the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub still fills me with the same skin-chilling horror, the same stomach-clenching grief. I didn’t personally know any of the victims, but I didn’t have to. The attack wasn’t just an attack on a nightclub in Orlando. It was an attack on the entire queer community.
 
The Pulse shooting occurred the very week before the Twin Cities Pride, and I spent that entire week crying. I cried because I no longer felt that I or my LGBTQIA+ loved ones were safe in our country. 
 
But at Twin Cities Pride 2016, I witnessed an outpouring of love, compassion, and hope. Both in words and actions, the queer community and its allies came together to remind each other: yes, we still matter. Yes, we are loved. And yes, we are going to keep fighting. Contrasted with the fear, anger, and anguish I had suffered during the week prior, I left Loring Park that Sunday feeling healed, uplifted, and empowered.
 
I started researching ways to become a more engaged self-advocate and ally to LGBTQIA+ rights. Immediately the ACLU’s work within the justice system stood out to me. Soon, I was making small donations to the ACLU, usually $5 or $10, often motivated by a homophobic comment from a politician or an experience of discrimination told by a friend. But it wasn’t until after the 2016 election that I realized it was time for me to become a full member.
 
Which brings me back to Pride. In previous years, I had been nothing more than an attendee. This year, I decided to also volunteer at the ACLU of Minnesota’s booth. I welcomed the opportunity to donate time and energy to both Pride and the ACLU, and I loved getting to talk and listen to a whole variety of Pride-goers.
 
I was able to introduce a number of people to the ACLU, but the most common response to my question,“Hello! Have you heard about the work the ACLU in Minnesota?” was a resounding yes, followed by,“I’ve been a member for years!” I can’t begin to count how many expressions of gratitude I heard for the ACLU and their work: individuals expressing how the ACLU made them feel safer in their community; couples talking about their pride in decades-long joint membership; a family bragging that they had unanimously voted to give all of their extra 2016 donation money to the ACLU. The ACLU of Minnesota is a pillar of strength that the queer community trusts in and relies on, and tabling this weekend made me appreciate that fact more than ever.
 
The past year wasn’t easy for the queer community, and the current administration promises more challenges during the next three. But these hardships are exactly why I am so grateful for the ACLU. As this Pride weekend reminded me, the ACLU of Minnesota fights for me and all LGBTQIA+ people, and its volunteer opportunities connect me to the community I love. I am proud to be an ACLU member.
 

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