Free to be
There’s enough space for all of us.
Illustration by Morgan Krieg
BY ANDREW KROP
“I ’m on the right track baby, I was born this way!”
As local performers Eric Krop and Mynxx—the all-female glam band comprised of Halladay Quist, Erica von Kleist and Sarina Hart— belted out Lady Gaga’s famous anthem, I took a step back from the dance floor to look around. Casey’s was packed, elbow-to-elbow, with a broad spectrum of locals sporting everything from the usual Montana flannel, blue jeans and cowboy boots to neon-colored skirts, glow-in-the-dark jewelry, glitter makeup, and sparkling high heels. As well as cat ear headbands, the signature accessory for Mynxx’s “Little Kitties,” as their dedicated and growing following is known.
But this wasn’t just another concert. The enthusiastic crowd, dancing non-stop through the two nights of the Lady Gaga tribute concert, was also sporting way more rainbow apparel than you’d normally see in Whitefish. We—the Flathead Valley’s lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queers, and our family, friends, and neighbors—were there to let loose, be our authentic selves, and celebrate Pride Month.
As a queer man living in the Flathead, I am all too aware how even the mere mention of these terms can make some of my neighbors uncomfortable. But the fact remains that members of the LGBTQ+ community call this wonderful land home. We’re the people serving you behind the deli counter, your real estate agents, construction workers on the side of the road, your elected officials, veterans at the VFW, hands on the ranch.
We’re the performers entertaining you—Eric Krop is my incredibly talented husband—and yes, some of us even write for Go Local. We are your peaceful neighbors, your friends, and even your family. As individuals, we own homes and businesses and literal land, yet as a marginalized and often misunderstood community in the Flathead, we’ve lacked the security and sense of belonging that comes from being an accepted part of a community’s metaphorical landscape.
We’re the people serving you behind the deli counter, your real estate agents, construction workers on the side of the road, your elected officials.
About 400 people attended those two nights of celebration and revelry at Casey’s. It dawned on me that I had never seen such a diverse gathering of the Flathead’s queer community and its allies. It didn’t matter who these people were, where they were from, what they were wearing, or who they loved. Everyone was there to have fun. For just two nights, a gathering of people in what can often seem to be a very lonely and invisible community in Montana had a safe space to come together, dress up a little extra, sing a bit louder, and dance a lot harder than usual. A chance to be themselves, however they define that.
It was a magical experience for all who attended. Cathartic even. Our community reassured itself that we do exist, and that we can safely and openly have a share of both the actual and figurative landscape in the Flathead Valley.
“‘Cause, baby, I was born this way,” and there’s enough of this land for all.
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