My Turn: Pride Month and protecting the LGBTQIA+ community

  • Meredith Palmer CONTRIBUTED

Published: 6/22/2022 6:31:43 PM
Modified: 6/22/2022 6:31:23 PM

June is Pride month, a month that, like many formerly closeted queer people, I look forward to every year.

Earlier this month, I attended a Pride celebration at my first grader’s elementary school in western Massachusetts. The celebration was led by the fifth grade Rainbow Club, a group of courageous young people whose mission is to encourage the inclusion, acceptance, and celebration of queer students and families. Kids paraded around the school, adorned in graphic tees with phrases such as “Love is Love” and “He, She, They, Them, Human.” As I watched, I caught the eye of a fellow queer parent, and we stood in awe at the stark comparison to our own closeted school experiences.

Like many queer kids, I grew up in a conservative, rural area, where I hid my identity throughout my formative years. As a closeted high-schooler, I kept my then relationship secret out of safety concerns and a fear of harassment. This is now the sobering reality of the impact of pending “Don’t Say Gay” bills threatening other school communities.

When I came out in college, I discovered the concept of chosen family and began to explore what it meant to be out and proud. Shortly after graduate (or graduating?) school, I was privileged enough to leave the South and move to New York City where I attended law school. It was there where I truly embraced my queer identity and committed my legal career to serving vulnerable and marginalized communities. I committed hard. I interned at the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce in Washington D.C. and landed my first job out of law school at Lambda Legal.

During these years, I also began to really understand the effect identity intersectionality (including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, class, and disability) has on the lived experiences of so many, and the importance of honoring these identities in my advocacy. As a white, cisgender, and educated person, I bring privilege to my lived experience.

In search of a slower pace and more space, I moved to western Massachusetts with my family, and found a robust LGBTQIA+ community. I feel very lucky that I can raise my children as an out, queer parent, and feel comforted knowing that my children are loved and celebrated.

I am now the Pro Bono Director at Community Legal Aid (CLA), a non-profit organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income and elderly residents of Central and Western Massachusetts. CLA is committed to serving the LGBTQIA+ community in the areas of housing, education, and employment. Additionally, CLA is collaborating with statewide and local organizations to expand a network of attorneys trained to provide support in legal name changes. Despite my own positive (and privileged) experience in this region, the need for social and legal support for the LGBTQIA+ community in Central and Western Massachusetts remains great.

On June 24, Community Legal Aid is partnering with Transhealth Northampton, GLAD Legal Advocates and Defenders, Gender Identity Validation Services, and the Gender Affirming Identification Project with the Center for Social Justice at the Western New England School of Law to provide a free Gender Identity and the Law Workshop for lawyers and non-lawyer advocates interested in learning how to better serve the LGBTQIA+ community. Through the workshop, you will hear from local experts about the legal landscape affecting this community and how advocates can make a difference in assisting individuals access gender-affirming care and services. Your involvement and support can provide a lifetime of gender-affirming access for individuals in our community.

Similar to that moment of awe I experienced watching my child participate in her school’s Pride celebration, I have immense relief and gratitude for working at an organization where my identity is accepted, celebrated, and incorporated into the overall mission. Together, we can intentionally advocate and fight to dismantle legal barriers affecting the vulnerable and marginalized people in our community.

About Community Legal Aid: Community Legal Aid provides free civil legal services to the low-income and elderly residents of the five counties of Western and Central Massachusetts (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester), and maintains full time offices in Worcester, Fitchburg, Springfield, Northampton, and Pittsfield. CLA works to assure fairness for all in the justice system, protecting homes, livelihoods, health and families.

Residents of Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire and Worcester Counties who would like to apply for assistance should visit Community Legal Aid’s website,, or call 1 855 252 5342.

Meredith Palmer is Pro Bono Director at Community Legal Aid. 


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy