‘People are afraid of what they don’t understand’: 7th-grader is bringing a Pride parade to suburbia
BUFFALO GROVE, Ill. — Sixth grade was a big year for Molly Pinta.
She started a gay-straight alliance at her Buffalo Grove middle school, Twin Groves. She came out to her family and, within the space of the newly launched gay-straight alliance, to her peers.
At the end of the school year, she and her parents attended the Aurora Pride Parade. She carried a sign that said she’d started her school’s first gay-straight alliance.
“People would read the sign and share their stories with me,” she told me. “People were so positive, and we were so inspired. It really made me want to do more.”
Bring a Pride parade to Buffalo Grove, for example.
“We reached out right away to the village manager and told him what we anticipated wanting to do,” Carolyn Pinta, Molly’s mom, said.
The village manager pointed them to the police, who walked them through the permitting process and safety protocols.
“From the very start, this has never been a ‘Can this happen?’ ” said Carolyn Pinta, who works as a Spanish teacher at Twin Groves. “It’s been ‘How can we make this happen?’ The police, the village board, members of the community — everyone has been so supportive.”
And now it’s happening. On June 2, the Pride Parade will wind through the streets of Buffalo Grove and conclude at Mike Rylko Park, where the Buffalo Grove Park District will host a “diversity day.”
Eighteen local businesses have signed on as sponsors so far, and Molly and her allies are soliciting organizations, teams, school groups and community members to walk in the parade.
From the Pinta Pride Project website: “Absolutely any group that supports love, acceptance and equality for all is eligible to enter a float or walkers in the parade. Businesses, religious organizations, school groups and clubs, families, teams … the possibilities are endless!”
They’re asking participants to keep themselves and their floats “family-friendly, fully clothed and advertising a positive message.” (“Equality for all vs. Impeach Trump,” is one example they offer.)
They’d love to get participants from outside Buffalo Grove, as well.
“We want to help people become more accepting and more aware,” said Molly Pinta, who’s now in seventh grade. “We want to do as many Pride events as possible and make them as public as possible. People often are afraid of what they don’t understand.”
“Molly wants members of the LGBTQ community to be seen, normalized and accepted,” Carolyn Pinta said. “We feel like the more events like this that happen, the more it does become normalized.”
The village put the price tag for the parade at around $15,000, Carolyn Pinta said, which Molly is close to having raised through a GoFundMe page. (She was at $11,600 the morning of Friday, Jan. 11.)
Last July, shortly after the Aurora Pride Parade, the Pintas launched a BG Pride 2019 Facebook page.
Recently, they started inviting LGBTQ couples to post their love stories with photos and, if they’d like, advice to young people about navigating a not-always-inclusive world.
“So far, we’ve featured four couples and have three more lined up,” Carolyn Pinta said. “They have come out beautifully.”
Molly Pinta said she always knew her family would receive her coming out with wholehearted love and acceptance.
“I knew everyone in my home would be cool,” she said. “My dad’s brother is gay. My mom’s best friend is gay. It’s never been an issue.”
Some of her LGBTQ peers at school, though, don’t have that same sense of safety and acceptance at home.
“They feel scared all the time,” she said. “They feel like they always have to hide. They have to hide who they really are.”
The parade is also for them — to help them feel supported and less alone, to create a positive, inclusive space that might open a few minds, to bring a community together to celebrate its members in all their diverse splendor.
And it’s brought to us by a 12-year-old. The future is fierce.