KALAMAZOO, Mich. — As we continue to celebrate Pride Month, Fox 17 is taking a look at leaders and prominent figures in West Michigan who identify as LGBTQ+.
Around 5.6% of Americans identify as LGBTQ+ according to a recent Gallup poll. As of last year, there were an estimated 843 LGBTQ+ people serving in elected offices across the United States, according to to the LGBTQ Victory Institute’s “Out for America 2020” census of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer elected officials.
One Kalamazoo man is hoping to increase that number as he runs for Kalamazoo City Commission.
"Society has not made this easy for us. When I say it is not for the weak, it is because society has not made this easy," said Marshall Kilgore, a candidate for the Kalamazoo City Commission.
Marshall Kilgore is a community advocate and candidate for Kalamazoo City Commission. Fox 17 News met him outside of Outfront Kalamazoo where he serves as the Director of Advocacy.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, he knows all too well how challenging it can be being different in a position of power, but he's used to it.
"I’ve sort of had to develop this type of conversation that is ‘Look. I know I am different than you, but I enjoy this town just like you do. I live here just like you do. I pay taxes just like you do. So how can we make this work for both you and I?' At the end of the day, we have to put our money where our mouth is and that means talking about things that are important to all of us," said Kilgore.
From high school class president, to other leadership roles and running for school board, he said it's not for the weak. Kilgore said sometimes you must feel discomfort in order to truly be proud of who you are.
"Everyone should be able to take pride in who they were truly born to be. Me as a bisexual, black male standing firmly in that identity of who I was born to be, I would say folks have to first be okay with it within themselves," said Kilgore.
Kilgore said while pride month is important, he cares about the same dinner table issues as everyone else. His campaign slogan is "A Kalamazoo for everyone".
"I don’t want to brainwash and make every street in Kalamazoo have a rainbow on it. I want to make sure every street in Kalamazoo can have a small business and be safe for folks like you and I, for all of us," said Kilgore.
The deadline for other city commission applicants in Kalamazoo is July 20 with the actual election on November 2.