Montana’s first ever Pride Weekend in Butte kicks off today, and it’ll undoubtedly be a fun and memorable gathering for the state’s LGBTIQ community, along with their families, friends, allies and other supporters.

A close gay friend once commented that Montana is like one big small town with some long highways in between, and I believe that’s true whether you are gay or straight, African-American, Native American, white, you name it.

Montanans may have their differences, but there’s a huge value placed on live and let live, and to privacy that’s valued by nearly everyone. Plus you never know who’s going to pull you out of a snow-covered ditch, so we tend to be civil toward each other, even when we  disagree over things. I am hoping that this weekend’s Pride in “Butte, America” as many locals like to call it, will be civil, peaceful, safe and fun for everyone.

As many friends and family members already know, I’m a late bloomer in the coming out department. I went to my first Pride event in Bozeman in 1996 when I was still terrified to be and live outside of the closet, though I went to show my support for others who were out and unafraid in what was then a much less tolerant and more fearful time than today.

Fast forward to 2009, not long after Erik and I had started dating, when we had walked hand in hand with hundreds of others in Kalispell, Montana’s First Pride event, and where we were astonished by huge crowds of supporters that by far outnumbered protesters.

Four years later we are heading to Butte to join in solidarity with others and celebrate the huge accomplishments and sea changes that have swept across the U.S. and other places over the past several years. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and we still have considerable ways to go before we have equality for all.

Wherever you are, no matter what your orientation, background, ethnicity, place of birth, language, challenge, the world needs your voice, your contributions, your unique talents, passions and gifts.

That’s what the long and (for me, anyways) arduous path and process of coming out has been teaching me. It is like peeling an onion, where I am continually discovering and nourishing new layers that give meaning and purpose and direction to life, while also challenging and discarding old layers of beliefs, thoughts, stories, experiences that no longer serve me, and to be truthful, never really did.

Future generations, our youngest and the most vulnerable among us now are depending on all of us to come out of hiding, to be and express our full selves, to be unafraid, and to be the change we wish to see in the world.

I hope that where you live, if you are called to do so, you’ll speak up and come out in support of someone or something that could really use tremendous encouragement, hope, positive energy and faith at this time. Maybe it will be to support Pride, some other event or cause, or the family, neighbor or business in need close to home.

Bear with me as I share the mission statement from the Rocky Mountain School of Photography here in  Missoula with you, as with just a few word changes in this statement,  what they really seem to be telling everyone is to come out, come out, wherever you are, whoever you are, to bring forth your greatest natural gifts and to never stop believing in yourself and others.

What We Believe:

We believe the world is beautiful.

We believe photography can capture and help preserve that beauty.

We believe people are inherently good.

We believe in the power of photography to positively change people’s lives.

We believe people should love what they do and do what they love.

We believe in creating a spirited, vigorous uplifting environment that helps people find their vision and feel valuable, alive and fulfilled.

We believe in helping people achieve their dreams.

We believe in you.

For myself, the first closet door I opened was through beginning to share my photographs and cards with others. That felt safe, as I didn’t feel comfortable or safe sharing my voice and heart yet.

I no longer hide behind my cards and photographs. I do whatever I can to support other nature lovers, no matter their orientation, connect more fully with themselves, their dreams and their visions, through greater, deeper and more consistent connection with the natural world. I desire to work with motivated people who are willing to do the hard work at times, but it’s also joyful and fulfilling, life-changing and liberating work that’s most successfully done in community, support and accountability with others.

To celebrate Pride Weekend here in Montana, 10% of all Paypal purchases of my photos and cards at from now through Tuesday June 18 will go to Pride Foundation, which “inspires a culture of generosity that connects and strengthens Northwest organizations, leaders, and students who are creating LGBTQ equality”.

Photography was a safe and first initial outlet for me to express more fully who I am, and I don’t know where I’d be today without that outlet, or without the support of the LGBTIQ family, allies  and friends that have been there for me in Montana and elsewhere. In that spirit I wish to continue paying it forward.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are” Dorothy shouted out in the movie “The Wizard of Oz”. There really is no place like being completely at home with yourself as well.