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For those across the Midlands, Pride Month is about having a voice

One man talks about what this month means to him and the changes he has seen in the state.
Credit: WLTX

COLUMBIA, S.C. — June is Pride Month, when the world's LGBTQ communities come together to celebrate their identity and work to improve equality.

Dylan Gunnels from Columbia, came out when he was 22. 

He says, "I knew I was gay in the second grade, I had my first crush in the second grade."

Originally from Aiken he says being from a small town made it difficult for him to express himself. "Coming from a small town and a conservative household and fighting the social construct related to it," says Gunnels.

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He says he was discriminated against, "When I decided to come out and be true to who I am, I had to leave that church." A man of faith, he says his choice to express himself, ostracized him.

"I am fighting a battle that's unique and different for many people I am fighting to be in faith spaces that don't exactly welcome me for who I am."

For Gunnels, this month is about visibility. "It's a collective celebration. For me it's a deeper reminder for the community at large, hey we need to be celebrated   every day of the every year." 

In the Midlands organizations say they are continuing to work to improve equality.

Kimmah Dozier-Burt from the Harriet Hancock LGBT Center says South Carolina United for Justice & Equality, a non-profit which focuses on ensuring equality for LGBTQ people, is pushing for changes at a legislative level.

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"I think the biggest call to action is to just use our voices for the right reason and to stand up for one another, and realize these people that are being hurt the most are vulnerable people in our society," said Dozier-Burt.

Jeff March from S.C. Pride, started the #BraveTheRainbow campaign, which aims to showcase Midlands' business support for the LGBTQ community, selling rainbow banners for business owners to put in their windows.

March said, "My slogan is be proud today and everyday... For my community its just nice to be recognized."

He says before people judge or make a remark, he says its important to form relationships with those in the LGBTQ community to understand how they feel and what they're going through.