Scott reading Juliet Takes a Breath as his trusty dog, GooseMan, who posed perfectly pointing at the Great Lakes Bay Pride sign.
Every month we'll highlight a reader in the Great Lakes Bay region and learn more about them, their work, and their reading life. We'll also promote books and share a conversation related to a theme. This month we're highlighting Pride Month - a celebration of the Stonewall Riots, which took place in 1969, and the LGBTQ+ community's impact on the world. Let's make time to celebrate our differences and enjoy the unique qualities we each possess. Maybe that means educating ourselves about the LGBTQ+ community in general or locally. We can learn more at Great Lakes Bay Pride. Of course, there are books to help enhance our understanding and strengthen relationships. Read on to find out about Scott Ellis and his part in supporting the LGBTQ+ community in our region.
How long have you been leading Great Lakes Bay Pride? And how did you end up in this role?
I first got involved with the organization (Perceptions at the time) in the fall of 2016. I had an idea to host a casual, LGBT+ social gathering at a local establishment and reached out to the organization to gauge their interest in promoting the event. I soon met with two board members. As they say, the rest is history! A few months later, I was asked to join the Board of Directors and served in a few different roles over the next two years. Since 2017, I’ve been fortunate to coordinate each Great Lakes Bay Pride Festival. As the organization grew, I stepped away from the Board and was asked to serve as the first full-time Executive Director in October 2019.
What do you do as executive director of Great Lakes Bay Pride?
At this time, I’m a staff of one, so my daily objectives change like our Michigan weather. My friends and family are amazed at the sheer number of meetings I attend any given week. But what they don’t always realize is each meeting is part of something much bigger. Great Lakes Bay Pride covers a four-county region which means there is a ton going on at any given time. My job is to make sure the organization continues moving forward and is visible in all of the communities we serve.
What virtual/in-person activities are happening to celebrate Pride month?
We are so excited to bring back our Celebrating Pride at Home yard signs again this year. Distribution days are scheduled the first week of June for each community in the region.
We’ve also partnered on Pride Night at the Loons and Larkin Beer Garden in Midland on Friday, June 4.
Later in the month, on June 17th, we’re hosting a webinar with Detroit-based activist, author, and podcast host Michelle E. Brown. I was fortunate to meet Michelle a few years ago at an awards banquet and have wanted to bring her back to the region.
On June 26th, we’re hosting a virtual watch party for New York City Pride’s Youth Pride event.
Check out the details on our website and Facebook page.
Scott with Captain Matt Tkach and Ben Day
As an advocate for LGBTQ+ individuals, what insight would you like to share re: supporting this community?
Support for the LGBTQ+ community comes in many forms. Considering the numbers, we have far more allies around us than we have LGBTQ+ folks. It’s imperative that our allies are visible and vocal. Allies play an important role in amplifying our voices throughout our communities.
Visibility is also a key factor in supporting our LGBTQ+ (and all diverse) communities. When we see others like us succeeding, living their best life, and prospering, it can really change someone’s outlook if they’re struggling to understand themselves.
How is GLB Pride standing up for marginalized individuals within the community, i.e. people of color, transgender people, etc.?
Great Lakes Bay Pride has a thriving transgender community and actively continues to expand our reach and inclusion of diverse communities throughout the region. We have always recognized the intersections of diversity in the LGBTQ+ community and we celebrate that.
Many parents wonder, “How do I know if it is just a phase?” especially if they feel their kids have been heavily influenced by what they see online. What are your thoughts?
I agree that external influences play a major role in how we all develop, youth or adult. I mentioned visibility previously and this is another example of why POSITIVE-visibility is so important. For a long time, the media did not accurately or positively represent our LGBTQ+ community. Things have changed but there is still work to be done. When you only see negative representation, it reinforces stereotypes and does not show the incredible contributions this community has made to our society. Above all else; love your kids. I’m not a parent but that advice should be universal. You might not understand what they’re going through, but your support and willingness to learn saves lives.
You're a big proponent of the GLB region. What are some of your favorite things to do in the area (when we are free to do them all)?
Short answer: I’m hardly ever free to do them all! Yes, I am a huge proponent of regionalism. You will often hear me make comments about “living in the greatest region in the world.” And I mean it. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel and see other places. But I chose to make the Great Lakes Bay Region my home. I came to the region in 2009 when I began my freshman year at Saginaw Valley State University. Over the years I spent at SVSU, I noticed a lot of classmates excited to graduate and leave the area for “bigger and better” things. As I approached graduation, I had to consider what I wanted to do next. Myself and others made the decision to stay here and accomplish great things. It was the very best decision for me and I am so lucky to call the Great Lakes Bay Region home.
What books would you recommend for LGBTQ+ people and/or their families?
I recommend finding books you love! If you like a certain genre, there is almost certainly a book or three with strong LGBTQ+ leads. At the moment, I’m reading Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera and loving it! And of course, anything Brené Brown.
What are your top three authors/books? Why?
3rd: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This book was an assigned read in an English 101 class my freshman year and I couldn’t put it down. I always recommend it for those interested in something new to read.
2nd: Anything by David Sedaris. His humor might not be for everyone but it is for me. I have enjoyed a number of his books and audiobooks read by the author in his distinct voice.
1st: My mom, Amber Orm. She wrote and published two books in her spare time while raising a family, being an elementary school teacher, and everything else she was involved in. She has an insatiable work ethic that was instilled in myself and my siblings. We are all grateful for that.