Niecy Nash, other celebs talk LGBTQ Pride Month: ‘I am proud of who I am’

Happy Pride Month, she’s, gays and they’s.

It’s the queerest time of the year – yes, the whole month of June – when the LGBTQ community comes together to celebrate being out and proud. Pride started as a protest outside the Stonewall Inn in 1969 in New York, and the community wouldn’t be as outspoken as it is today without the work of Black and Latinx transgender women.

The coronavirus pandemic thwarted traditional Pride parades and other debauchery last year. With the country reopening again, members of the LGBTQ community can more readily gather safely this time around.

But how are LGBTQ celebrities partaking in Pride Month this year, and what does it mean to them? We asked some – and are monitoring many others’ social media accounts throughout June – to tell us their thoughts.

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Niecy Nash: ‘Love should be at the forefront’

Niecy Nash and wife Jessica Betts got married in August – when virtually no one even knew Nash was queer.

“I am proud of who I am,” she says. “I am proud of my relationship. I’m proud of our marriage. I am just proud to be a Black woman who (lives) life on her own terms and does it out loud.”

How’s she digging the newlywed life? “It’s treating me great,” she says. “I’m married to one of the most beautiful souls.” A typical weekend for the pair involves good food, swimming and relaxing in the hot tub, she says.

Surprise! Niecy Nash reveals wedding to singer Jessica Betts and shares photo with fans

Niecy Nash hosts this year's GLAAD Media Awards. (Photo: Getty Images for GLAAD)

Nash didn’t know what to expect once she revealed her truth to the world, “but my close friends and family were extremely supportive and so that was the most important part for me,” she says.

She’s been vocal about how she didn’t come out – she “never hid anything” – but rather came into herself.

“I feel like you only really need courage in the face of fear,” she says. “And I don’t know if I was afraid in as much as I was just cautious, because I did not know how we were going to be received in the world.”

Plans for her first Pride Month aren’t set in stone yet, but she encourages people to lead with love. 

“The world needs so much love right now because we’ve come through a really tough year and there’s so many things happening in the world that bring stress and chaos,” she says. “Love should be at the forefront of any conversation that anybody is having.”

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Candis Cayne reflects on first Pride, need to band together for trans community

Actress Candis Cayne acknowledged that Pride has changed over the years – especially since she came out (Cayne came out twice, but as transgender in 1995).

“When I first came out, Pride Month was about fighting for our rights. It was about marching, it was about telling the world that we were OK with who we were, and we were valued people in the community. And luckily, more and more, it’s been accepted,” she says. That said, there’s still a ways to go. 

Her first Pride was in New York City, where she saw a sea of people on Fifth Avenue.

“I remember just vividly thinking, ‘There’s more of us out there than I thought,’ ” she says. She’s done New York Pride for about 20 years, including performing on floats, and she recalled dressing as Wonder Woman and jumping off a truck and pretending to push it forward and backward – a magical, quintessential Pride moment.

Candis Cayne as The Fairy Queen in Syfy's 'The Magicians.' (Photo: Eike Schroter, Syfy)

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She doesn’t have plans just yet for Pride – she is vaccinated and encourages others to do the same – but “might just have a get together and celebrate Pride in a more intimate way this year.”

She encourages the LGBTQ community to come together and support the transgender community amid ongoing legal battles and violence.

“Seeing how our community’s being affected right now, with all the legislation, how trans women of color are being murdered at an alarming rate, I think that’s something that we really need to focus on as a community and band together,” she says.

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‘Grey’s Anatomy’ actor Jake Borelli talks growing in his queerness

“Grey’s Anatomy” star Jake Borelli viewed Pride Month as a celebration when he was younger. But after publicly coming out in 2018 and spending more time in queer spaces with a variety of queer people, he had time to reflect on what Pride is really about.

“As I’ve grown in my queerness, and my relationship to my own queerness, I know wholeheartedly that it’s a riot, and it is a protest,” the actor, who plays Dr. Levi Schmitt, says. “At this point in my queerness, I feel like I can’t allow myself to stand anymore for the negative way society has made me feel about my queerness and Pride and Pride Month, and Pride gatherings.”

The absence of physical queer spaces during the pandemic forced him to think even deeper.

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"Grey's Anatomy" actor Jake Borelli followed his character, Dr. Levi Schmitt, out of the closet on Nov. 1, 2018, after he was involved in the long-running medical drama's first gay male romance. "This is exactly the kind of story I craved as a young gay kid growing up in Ohio," he wrote on Instagram. (Photo: Mitch Haaseth/ABC)

“That caused me to start thinking a lot more introspectively about what it means to be queer and what growing up as a gay person surrounded by straight people really actually did to my psyche in the long term, and I’ve found myself having to re-parent myself right now as as a queer man, re-parenting my younger queer self,” he says.

He’s been to a host of different Pride celebrations in his life, from Los Angeles and New York to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

“It was such an incredible experience to go back to my hometown where I was fully closeted, and didn’t feel like I could be my full self and to see that there was an entire group of people who were pushing forward in Columbus for the queer community and had been forever,” he says.

His advice for queer people going on similar journeys as himself?

“Be patient with yourself and everyone who’s around you,” he says with a laugh. “I have to remind myself that every day.”

Leyna Bloom talks Pride Month, how she celebrates ‘every single day’

“Port Authority” star Leyna Bloom recently opened up to USA TODAY in a Q&A about how she celebrates Pride Month daily.

Leyna Bloom stars as Wye in the drama "Port Authority." (Photo: Courtesy of Momentum Pictures)

“Pride is not just this time when we can explore things that are in us that we’re raised to suppress and now we’re taught to express it in the sun and in the streets and the world just for one month,” Bloom says. “It’s something that I have to do every single day of my life. I have to wake up and be proud that I’m alive and (ask) ‘Why am I here? And what am I doing here, and am I going to be able to help people?’

“Through all the most traumatic experiences in my life and in the world, seeds are being planted everywhere I go. And this summer 2021, everything is blooming at the same time: Sports Illustrated, movies, TV shows. It is really a moment to be Black, be queer, be trans, be Asian, so I’m just honestly going to celebrate every single day that I’m allowed to be alive to have those moments. So I’m really excited to see what else I can do and how we can elevate our community to unite.”

Contributing: Anika Reed

For more on that interview: ‘Port Authority’ star Leyna Bloom on trans love story, how she celebrates Pride Month daily

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