ROCKFORD (WREX) – On Tuesday, May 28, Tom McNamara did something no other Rockford mayor has done.
He issued a proclamation recognizing June as Pride Month for the City of Rockford.
The change is comes as a result of the work done by Rockford’s PFLAG chapter.
The organization has 400 chapters across the country working to unite the LGBTQ community.
It came to Rockford through the efforts of Phyllis Gallisath and her son Liam, who came out as transgender in 2015.
“I just realized that there wasn’t something within our reach in this area that made sense for us so we decided to start meeting with people in the community and there was an interest there so we formed a board and then went from there,” said Gallisath.
Liam passed away last year, but the work he and his mother accomplished brought PFLAG to Rockford in 2016.
When the organization began, there was an immediate impact.
“We could tell right away there was a need for it, that there was something missing in the area as far as LGBTQ education, support and advocacy goes,” said Gallisath.
The group started with youth programs and support groups, but with the proclamation now in place, pride events have been hosted throughout the month of June thanks to strong support from the community.
“I think we were a little taken back by how excited everyone else was too and how much they wanted to be a part of it.”
Matthew Mellies, who worked alongside Phyllis and Liam to bring PFLAG to the city, shared in her surprise.
“As a very young queer person, I never honestly thought Rockford would do this,” said Mellies
Mellies came out as transgender when he was 13 years old.
He says seeing Pride Month become official in his hometown nearly brought tears to his eyes.
“The impact of PFLAG on the community just makes it better as a whole. It’s teaching acceptance, tolerance, love and appreciation for a group that doesn’t always get it.”
While the rest of the city learns to show that appreciation, the LGBTQ community is learning to be comfortable expressing and celebrating who they really are.
“They’ve seen the other side of it. They’ve seen the oppression. The different things that have held them back in the past and now to be able to be open about it and just be who they are, that was really cool for me to see and hear about,” said Gallisath.
PFLAG Rockford hopes to put on more interactive events , including a potential parade, in the future.
Friday, June 28th marks the 50th anniversary of Pride Month following the Stonewall Riots in Manhattan in 1969