In only the third time so far in its history, the Commonwealth is joining the rest of the world this year in celebrating June as Pride Month, with a proclamation signing yesterday at the Koblerville Gymnasium that kicks off a monthlong series of events that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in the CNMI.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres was joined by first lady Diann Torres, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, and Fr. Michael Linden of the Society of Jesus in signing the proclamation document before members and supporters of Pride Marianas Youth and other members of the community. The theme of Pride Month this year is “Change the tide, show your pride.” Up next for the monthlong celebration is a talk show with radio station KKMP today, June 3.
In his inspirational remarks, Dr. Bobby Cruz recounted some formative experiences in his past and his struggles during that time with his sexuality. “There was no positive LGBT representation for me to emulate, no counselor to help guide me through my trauma and unpack my feelings. …In my mind, there was nothing,” said Cruz.
With LGBTQ+ acceptance slowly becoming the norm, Cruz said he has since risen above his trauma and come to terms with who he is. “We will replace smallness for openness, intolerance for humanity, and, most importantly, begin the work to uproot shame and plant pride in its place,” he said.
In his closing remarks, Torres said that acceptance comes down to respect. “It’s about respect. It’s about respecting each other’s decisions. …If one of my kids [were] gay or lesbian, I would love them no less,” said Torres.
Palacios shared that a Pacific Islands Conference of Leadership was taking place over Zoom at the same time as the proclamation, and that he “didn’t hesitate to [choose to] be here.” He shared that one of his siblings is gay, and it was through his family’s protection and support that made understanding and acceptance come easy. “We will continue to advocate and help in every way we can to change the tide,” said Palacios.
The Torres-Palacios administration took part in two firsts for the LGBT+ community in the CNMI, with Torres being the first CNMI governor to proclaim Pride Month back in 2016 and for holding the first virtual proclamation last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.