Portraits of Pride

 interviews by Karen Starr, photos by Shane Wynn

Karen Starr asked everyone pictured here at Akron Pride on Aug. 24: “Why do you celebrate Pride?”

These are their answers.

Samantha Bartilson

As a transgender woman who came out at 48, and who is now 51, and knowing the struggle that I had to go through to come out… I celebrate being here with fellow LGBTQ people and being able to see and empower the youth of the next generations.


I celebrate Pride to celebrate those before us who weren’t able to celebrate Pride. I celebrate the rebellion, the revolution that Pride is, was and always will be.

Mona Delwest 

I celebrate Pride because it’s diversity – it brings everybody together – it’s Love. Jesus is Love, this is Love. It brings this whole world together and that’s why I celebrate it – to celebrate the love and friendship that I have gathered over the years.

Cole Golden 

I celebrate Gay Pride because it is a part of our history, like Stonewall, 50 years ago. We have a friend in Cleveland, he was a part of it. And it is a part of our history and we cannot forget that. So I will forever support it.

Sadie Tritt and Avery Rush 

Sadie: Pride is a time to just be yourself. No one can judge you – here, at least – it’s just very nice to be a part of the community, everybody is so nice.

Avery: Nobody here is judgemental, I think. I feel like it’s a nice way to be yourself and show who you are and have pride.

Lady Inferno

I celebrate because I get to meet all these fun people and people that I wouldn’t normally see out and about, or in the club scene, if I hadn’t come here. It’s a place to feel accepted.  I am having so much fun. This is like my actual first Pride I’ve been to and I’ve lived here all my life.

Jenna Black 

Because I like to celebrate all the different kinds of people and who they love and basically everything that they’re about. This is like my third Pride, I’m pretty sure, and I just love coming here. As a fashion student, I just love seeing all the fun outfits and everything.

Krystal Rockenfelder 

[Gestures to the exhibit tent behind her, honoring transpeople who were murdered in 2019] That’s why. Right there. Murdered. So we come out here and we show that we are not going to give into that. We’re just not. I just told a girl this, we were in there talking, and I’m not letting that stop me from going out in America and being who I am. So Pride is, “this is what we are.”

Jacqueline Adams and Melanie English

Jacqueline: I celebrate Pride because I’m all about equality and love.

Melanie: I celebrate because I love the rainbows, I love the community and I love the LGBTQ community.

The Great MC and Ethan Zimmerman

The Great MC: Hey, we need support. My parents aren’t the most accepting of this so I come here to support the people who are also like me who also don’t have accepting parents. And this is a good time! Go around and meet new friends, I love being social.

Ethan: Because I’m a furry and because my dads are gay and they raised me.

Shawn Rehac and Johnny Yanok

Shawn: To be quite honest with you, this is our first Pride ever, I’ve been out for 26 years but this is my first Pride in any city ever. I’m from Akron, I live here but I always had to work. And I’m a little beside myself at how many people are here – how many children are here. I think it’s just amazing and it’s built a little more pride in me. I would never shy from pride in the first place, but this inclusivity, this group of people, all feeling the same way, it’s amazing. I’m very, very happy we came.

Johnny: I think it’s amazing to see this big of a turn out, for something like, as a teenager, I was so afraid to be out or come out…it’s a different time but it’s just so great to see people embracing this now. It’s like, these kids these days have… [tears up]… it’s so great.

Danyel Vasquez

I celebrate Pride because I’m f***ing fabulous! And I don’t care what anybody thinks of me. And we’re fabulous! The gay, LGBTQ community is fabulous. There’s nothing like it.