Celebrating Pride Month in Houston

Kush with Avery Belyeu, CEO of the Montrose Center in Houston, and JuJu Faragher, Hatch Youth Services Specialist

June is Pride Month. What does pride mean to you? Is it a rainbow flag billowing on a street corner? Is it a community where everyone respects each other’s differences? Or is it a country where everyone has equal rights, despite their gender or sexual orientation?

In 1999, President Bill Clinton declared June “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” The declaration was in response to decades of suppression and mistreatment of the gay community. In 2009, when Barack Obama was President, Pride Month was expanded to include the entire LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community.

To learn more about the significance of Pride Month, I spoke with members of the LGBTQ+ community in Houston, Texas. Avery Belyeu is chief executive officer of the Montrose Center, which opened in 1978. The nonprofit organization seeks to empower members of the LGBTQ+ community “to live healthier, more fulfilling lives.”

“I hope we’re a shining light for LGBTQ+ youth,” Belyeu said. “We work daily through our mission to make all communities safer places for them, so they’re affirmed for who they are.”


Kush gets a tour of Hatch Youth from Belyeu and Faragher. 


Within the center, a group called Hatch Youth helps kids and young adults who identify as LGBTQ+ to “not just survive, but thrive.” Hatch offers peer support groups and mentorships, as well as educational and creative activities. 

JuJu Faragher is a Hatch Youth Services Specialist. “Pride is an opportunity to embrace the quirks and intricacies of being human,” he said. “It collectively helps us find freedom in expression, love, and joy.”  

Faragher offered advice for young people who are thinking about joining a group like Hatch, but feel apprehensive.

“It’s OK to be nervous,” Faragher said. “It takes time to make friends and warm up. Give yourself some grace to experience being in the room and feeling comfortable. And let your fears melt away.” 


Kush with his dog, Sweetie Pi, and Marin Slanina, the owner of Star Sailor, a restaurant in Houston 


I also attended a “Pride Pup Crawl” for families at Star Sailor, a local restaurant. As I sat in a festive room filled with rainbow-clad canines, I spoke with the owner, Marin Slanina. She explained the purpose of the crawl and her vision for the LGBTQIA+ community.

“Whenever we talk about impact, I explain it as a drop in a bucket,” Slanina said. “You have a bucket of water, and you have a pebble. Everybody’s pebble is a different size and leaves a ripple. One ripple effect ends up meeting others to make a larger impact. Therefore, if we spread love, care, community, and inclusion, we’re all happier and more fulfilled.”

Photos courtesy of the author