For many, especially those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community, Pride Month is much more than rainbow-patterned t-shirts and parades.
This June marks the 54th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a pivotal uprising in New York City that catalyzed the gay rights movement and numerous activist groups.
While the queer community has seen great strides and many positive changes in the five decades since Stonewall, numerous states across the country continue to push anti-LGBTQ legislation and homophobic rhetoric remains prevalent. Pride Month is needed now more than ever as a celebration of love, identity and all the many forms it comes in.
As those on the North Fork prepare for their first annual Pride festival and parade in Greenport this Saturday, June 24, many LGBTQ-identifying members of the community from across the Fork reflect on what Pride means to them.
Lori Panarello, Craft Hair Salon, Greenport
Lori Panarello and her wife always dreamed of moving to the North Fork. Originally purchasing a summer home in 2014, the couple instantly fell in love with the area. Like many others during the pandemic, their dreams came true when they moved out of Brooklyn and into their summer home full-time
In October 2020, Panarello opened her salon, Craft Hair in Greenport. Her salon employs those who identify with the LGBTQ community, providing a supportive and safe work environment. Panarello ensures that both her employees, as well as her customers, feel welcome, safe and comfortable.
“I am 64 years old this year and have been gay for my entire life,” said Panarello. “There has been a struggle for our community for centuries. I’ve seen a lot happen to my community in my lifetime, from the AIDS epidemic to the legalization of gay marriage. Pride month is so important to speak about our struggles and our history. It’s important to tell our stories about what we’ve been through. Pride is a celebration of how far we’ve come, a celebration of our lives, but also an important reminder of how much work still needs to be done.”
Panarello, who is active in the community, specifically in supporting LGBTQ youth on Long Island, was one of the first to suggest hosting a pride parade in the village of Greenport.
“With everything that is happening in our country today, I thought this is the time this has to be done,” Panarello said. “I knew it was going to be a huge undertaking and I couldn’t do it without my friends and my community. It’s been a whirlwind but it’s going to be an amazing event and we’re so excited with how receptive the Village has been.”
Peter Clarke, Clarke’s Garden, Greenport
2023 marks the 14th anniversary of Clarke’s Garden and Home. Peter Clarke opened his home and garden store with the intent of focusing on residents and second homeowners in the community – selling a variety of decor for inside and outside the home.
This year, Clarke intends to celebrate Pride by providing a safe haven within his store for shoppers.
“I want people to understand that we are an LGBTQ-owned business that respects all and treats everyone with dignity,” said Clarke. “Pride month is a look back and a look forward as we reflect on the hard-won rights, equality and freedoms that we enjoy and look forward to protecting these rights for future generations.”
Clarke and his business emphasize that everyone is equal and deserves respect, recommending that others support queer-owned businesses by working to help protect their rights and seek to understand what LGBTQ life was like before their rights were earned.
“We don’t want special treatment, we just want to be accepted for who we are: someone’s brother or sister, child or parent, neighbor or friend,” Clarke said.
Stefanie Basset and Elizabeth Peeples, Little Ram Oyster Co., Southold
When Stefanie Basset and her wife, Elizabeth Peeples moved to Southold to open their oyster farm, Little Ram, in 2018, they had no plans of emphasizing that they were a woman-owned business. This year, however, the couple began to acknowledge their appreciation for being accepted as lesbian business owners.
“We were able to come out to our families in a welcoming environment,” said Basset. “Every year when Pride rolls around, I realize that we need to be working harder and doing more to educate people. It’s easy to put blinders up on complicated situations but Pride makes me appreciate having the ability to be an out woman, acknowledge those who aren’t as lucky and advocate for them.”
Basset is grateful that she is able to be in a state-recognized marriage. She is grateful that her son can legally have two moms who both love him and each other. When the couple first moved to the North Fork, they didn’t know anyone in the area and were nervous they would not find community.
“Within the first year, we realized how loving and welcoming everyone was to us,” said Basset. “Every rural area has its moments of hate, but we’re lucky to not encounter that much out here. We are excited to be a part of such a huge event with the Pride parade and are excited to celebrate and see all the neighbors who support us.”
The women also began Little Ram Oyster Co. Happy Hour at the Shoals food truck, highlighting all female-owned companies. For June, they highlighted LGBTQ-created products, with 100% of the proceeds going to North Fork Women, a lesbian-ran advocacy group for women’s health needs. The food truck happy hour is hosted on Wednesdays from 5 to 8 p.m. from now until Labor Day.
Margaret Harrigan, Haircutters of Love Lane
She spent the majority of her life on the North Fork, recently celebrating her eight-year anniversary as a barber at Haircutters of Love Lane. But Margaret Harrigan, known to most as “Maggie the Barber,” has a mixed relationship with Pride on the North Fork.
“There wasn’t much out here when I was a kid. The only lesbians I knew of were [Anne Trimble and Nancy Leskody] at Trimble’s Nursery in Mattituck,” said Harrigan. “Growing up, it was an unspoken thing – you don’t talk about being gay. I don’t want anyone to have to go through that like I did.”
For Harrigan, who married her wife last week, her biggest hope is that kids who are stuck in the closet find an open and welcoming community. Harrigan does not see Pride as a celebration of her life, but rather as a celebration for those who don’t have a place of belonging, an important validation for those who are most vulnerable.
“Pride is a celebration of oneself, especially when the world is not celebrating who you are,” said Harrigan. “Pride is less about me and more for the kids and the adults who aren’t out yet, but I’m glad Pride is happening in Greenport.”