DeLand isn’t the same city it used to be.
A lot of things have changed, that’s for sure. There are changes I’m not too keen on, but few things make me prouder of my hometown than Pride Month.
In many ways, DeLand, and Florida at large, have not always been the most welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community.
Even now, our legislators continue to pass bills that threaten to put targets on LGBTQ+ youth. But despite that, DeLand’s LGBTQ+ community is far more visible than they ever were when I was a kid.
And visibility is important.
Throughout the month of June, windows all through DeLand, especially Downtown, are adorned with pride flags and stickers.
It may seem like a small touch, but these flags and stickers serve as reminders that no matter what bigots may be yelling, our LGBTQ+ friends and family are welcome.
June 12 was a particularly notable day, too. Members of DeLand Pride and others stood on the corners of Woodland Boulevard and New York Avenue to fly pride flags and read the names aloud of the individuals murdered at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016.
It’s DeLand’s diversity of opinion that makes it an inviting place to work and live.
I have a hard time imagining pride flags flown proudly at the city’s center even 10 years ago.
In fact, it was 10 years ago, in 2011, that the Volusia County Council passed an ordinance that added “personal gender identity or sexual orientation” to the list of protections Volusia County residents have from discrimination.
A community that protects and supports its LGBTQ+ population is a community that is overall more tolerant and kind to everyone.
Studies have shown — including a 2020 study in the American Political Science Review — that just talking to people with backgrounds different from your own, be it gender identity, sexual orientation, etc., can help improve relationships between individuals.
The visibility of the LGBTQ+ community has made DeLand a more welcoming place.
Our diversity as people, and as a city, should be celebrated. Just knowing there’s an LGBTQ+ presence in a city makes it more welcoming for people in need of a community.
And sure, the roads are busier than they were when I was a kid, but when I see people in this town unafraid to be themselves, and I see symbols of pride up and down Woodland Boulevard, it makes me happy to tell people that I’m from DeLand.