Pride Month Begins: Wilmington Couple Shares Struggle for Marriage

With the start of the month of June, Pride Month has also begun, a time when LGBTQ+ community members celebrate their individuality.

Why Is Pride Month Celebrated in the Month of June?

The reason behind celebrating Pride Month in June is the Stonewall Insurrections that happened in June 1969 that was the stimulant to the gay rights movement. Sandra Leigh opens up about her journey in recognition of Pride Month and what pride means to her.

Sandra Leigh and Alana Married Four Times

Sandra Leigh and Alana, her wife whom she fondly called “Lonnie”. The duo has known each other for over thirty years and have tied the knot 4 times throughout those years.

The initial 2 were domestic partnerships noted by the City of San Francisco and the State of California. In 2004, the third happened when former Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom provided marriage licenses to same-sex pairs.

Leigh said “There must have been 500, a thousand people waiting in line to get married all night long,” adding further “This was a tremendously moving event for all of us.”

 Nearly after a month, it was then withdrawn following an order issued by the California Supreme Court to stop the weddings. Then, the California Supreme Court canceled all same-sex marriage licenses that were given at that time period.

Leigh added, “I think we all kind of thought it was going to go away anyway…but it was a slap in the face.”

Later, both of them finally tied the knot officially in September 2017 in New Hanover County after they relocated to the region to retire.

Leigh said “It was nationally legal, locally legal, state legal, city legal. We’re legal!” 

Prior to retiring, Leigh worked as an educator for 42 years and played a key role in launching the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy in San Francisco which was named after Harvey Milk, the first gay man who ran for public office in California. In 1978, he was murdered.

Leigh was already serving as a principal in the San Francisco Unified School District and came out in support of the school to be named after Milk as a tribute. During the last thirteen years of their career, she was the principal of the academy.

The couple moved to North Carolina as Leigh’s daughter, Lovenia, had settled in Fayetteville. Lovenia suggested they look for relocation to Wilmington and co-incidentally, the two found a home within their budget. Later, Lovenia and her husband get it renovated for the two.

Though North Carolina was definitely more reasonable as compared to California and also closer to family, the two faced a tough time leaving their community in San Francisco. Luckily, they learned about SAGE in Wilmington and for the unversed, SAGE is the abbreviation for Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders.

Pride Month Begins
Pride Month Begins

Leigh said “It’s young and it’s trans and it’s old and it’s men and women and it’s diverse racially and it’s diverse gender…very diverse gender-wise,” adding further “And it’s willing to come out and talk about things and take stands on things.”

Though the community’s young members are growing up in a different time, what they are facing isn’t so different as compared to what she and a lot of others like her had faced.

Leigh added, “Some of it is, I think particularly for non-binary or gender-fluid or trans-identifying young people, it’s not only hard personally but the environment of safety is very close to the edge”.

It’s Wonderful to Be a Part of Such a Group: Leigh

After having significant conversations, Leigh states that it is a wonderful group to be a part of. Notwithstanding if it’s organizing cookouts, fitness outings, or nights out, the community is great. For several others like Leigh, having a strong support system is extremely essential. She states while some advancement has been made in LGBTQ+ rights, there is still a long way to go.

Leigh states “It’s a dangerous living in some ways, but it’s not something we all choose to do. It’s who we are,” adding further “And so, society has to realize that the diversities in society are much more than skin deep. Maybe someday it’ll happen.”

Regardless of young or old, Leigh has suggestions for the one battling to accept them.  

Leigh stated “Oh it’s a struggle, but it’s worth it. It’s a struggle but it’s worth it. Be yourself,” adding further “And happy gay pride.”

Pride month is usually celebrated through parades, concerts, parties, and others in particular cities. We will keep you updated with all the latest information until then stay tuned to our website.

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