Madison L’Insalata, 23, chose to open up publicly about her sexuality ahead of the event out of solidarity for the New York City borough’s Pride Center, which hasn’t been authorized to take part in the parade.
“It would have felt disingenuous. I felt that it was necessary for me to come out and say that I was bi publicly because I wanted it to be clear that I’m part of this community,” she told the Advance. “It would have made me sick to my stomach if I would have sat back and done nothing on that day knowing that the Pride Center wasn’t allowed to walk.”
After revealing her sexuality, L’Insalata said she was told she couldn’t join the parade’s procession either. Jim Smith, director of Miss Staten Island Scholarship Pageants, told WLNY that parade organizer Larry Cummings said the ban was because he was “worried about her safety.”
“It’s really hurtful. Nobody likes to feel rejected from their community,” L’Insalata told the outlet.
Larry Cummings could not immediately be reached by PEOPLE for comment.
Last month, Cummings told the Advance that the parade is a “non-sexual identification” event. “The fact of the matter is that’s what it is, okay? And that’s that,” he said.
Despite not be able to join in the marches, L’Insalata still proudly attended the parade.
“Keeping my head high 🌈 Change is coming! I am proud to be a member of the LGBTQ community,” she captioned a photo on Instagram, showing herself at the parade with a rainbow scarf around her neck, a crown on her head and a smile on her face. “I am proud to be Miss Staten Island, to have grown up on Staten Island, and to partake in this Staten Island tradition year after year.”
L’Insalata continued: “There is so much room for growth, but with all the love and support I have received today, I know change is coming.”
Speaking to the Washington Post, L’Insalata said her goal was to raise awareness and hopefully inspire change in the community’s inclusion and representation in public forums.
“I just realized that even if I wasn’t going to be allowed to march, I could still make a difference, and I think that I still sparked conversation,” she said.
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L’Insalata, who works as a musical theatre teacher, told the Advance she’s “gotten used to” backlash and disapproval in her conservative home community.
“I hate that that’s the truth,” she said. “It’s hurtful. It really is unfortunate that we’re the last borough to not include the Pride Center despite having a pope that talks about being inclusive to all different types of people, including those that are a part of the LGBTQ community.”
L’Insalata added that she was relieved when she got positive feedback from community members following her coming out.
“I’ve received some texts from parents of my students, which is really nice,” she told the outlet. “I was definitely a bit worried at first about, just knowing that Staten Island tends to be a little more on the conservative side. Not to say that I think anyone I work closely with would think that way, but it was something that went through my head. So it was really nice to hear from parents who were supportive.”