This month, the GSWNY Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee is celebrating Pride! Throughout June, we’ll share more about the history of Pride, as well as highlights from LGBTQ+ representation in pop culture, highlights of community members, tips for allies, as well as local resources.
Last week we learned about the foundations of Pride celebrations, so now it’s time to highlight some members of the LGBTQ+ community. While there are so many wonderful people who could be included, we’ve selected three from the Western New York to share with you today.
Drag Queen Pandora Boxx
Born in Jamestown, NY, Pandora Boxx is the stage name of Michael Steck.
Pandora was a contestant in season 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race television show (2010). She did not win that season, but was voted Miss Congeniality, the title awarded to the queens who are regarded as the kindest, most helpful ones on their respective seasons.
Pandora has also been active in the Rochester and WNY drag scene since 2005. She still makes appearances in local theater and at clubs. She is known locally as an actor, comedian, drag queen, musician, playwright, reality television personality.
Some notable highlights in her career include opening shows for country singers LeAnn Rimes and Chely Wright, talk show appearances including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and she was the creator, writer and star of the public access/internet show ‘The GAY (means happy) SHOW!’ She has also held roles in stage plays and musicals including her own original play in 2009 titled ‘The Lipstick Massacre,’ a comedy murder mystery. The play premiered at Rochester’s Multi-Use Community Cultural Center (MUCCC) to four sold out shows, returning later to the prestigious Rochester Geva Theatre Center to rave reviews.
For decades, Ari Moore has stood as a leader of the local LGBTQ+ movement. This is in part to her recognition as “Buffalo’s first prominently out Black trans woman.” She continues to advocate for the rights of non-binary and transgender New Yorkers. Groups she works with include Gender Equality New York, Spectrum Transgender Group of Western New York, and African Queens Association.
Her diverse career began as an art major at what is now Daemen College, which led her to teaching at the Albright Knox Art Gallery. She became one of the first artist’s to show at the Juneteenth Festival in Buffalo, all while owning and operating the Inner City Artist Studio.
For 25 years, she remained true to herself even while closeted during her time serving as a police officer in Buffalo. Her activism remained front and center throughout her time on the force, where she was a resource for colleagues and advocate for LGBTQ+ families. Her work alongside Mayor Byron Brown in 2004 gave her experience and insight into the world of legislation and politics, where she’s served since to fight for equal rights.
Harry B. Bronson
Harry B. Bronson is the only openly gay member of the New York State legislature from Western New York. He represents the 138th district, which encompasses parts of the city of Rochester as well as the towns and villages of Chili and Henrietta. In the New York State Assembly, he advocated for the passage of a marriage equality bill in 2011 and has supported a variety of programs and laws that benefit LGBTQ+ people.
Bronson also authored and successfully passed A7929, which requires every state agency, board, or commission that directly collects data on ethnic origin for residents of New York to also collect information on sexual orientation and gender identity so the LGBTQ+ community is represented and seen in state data.
Along with his business partner, John White, Bronson also owns Equal=Grounds Coffee House, which opened in Rochester’s South Wedge neighborhood in 2006. The coffee house is meant to be an inclusive gathering space for the LGBTQ+ community, though of course, all are welcome to come enjoy some coffee and other treats. Their motto? “All people are created equal. All coffee is not.”
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- Celebrating the Legacy of Poet Walt Whitman
- Rochester, New York Voices of LGBT History
More Local Celebrations!
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