Mark McCauslin is the founder of Colonie Pride and was a driving force behind the Town of Colonie officially recognizing June as LGBTQ month in part by starting an online petition that garnered more than 600 signatures. The Colonie High and Siena College grad works in the public sector as a training administrator. He and his partner live in Colonie. If you would like to get involved in Colonie Pride visit its Instagram, @ColoniePride, or Facebook page, or send an email to [email protected]
Q: How important is it to have your hometown recognize Pride Month and why?
A: When I was a closeted gay teenager, Colonie seemed like a very conservative and homogeneous town. Until I was 17, I was too scared to come out because I thought I’d be looked at as different by everyone else, and bullied for it. I think it would have made a world of difference back then to see my local elected leaders recognize the importance of Pride Month and by extension, show their support to and solidarity with people like me, people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc. So it is incredibly important as an LGBTQ+ person to see my hometown recognize that June is Pride Month, a time where all of us, gay, straight, trans, etc. can come together to celebrate the progress our society has made over the past 50 years in the LGBTQ rights movement, while also acknowledging that there is still work to be done to achieve full equality and acceptance.
Q: COVID-19 put a damper on everything this year, but what activities or celebrations would you like to see now that the town officially recognizes Pride Month?
A: When Colonie Pride had our first (and last) in-person meeting in early March, our group came up with lots of great ideas to start bringing the LGBTQ+ community and our straight allies together in Colonie. And then the state went “on pause” two weeks later. Social distancing as a result of the pandemic has really highlighted how important it is to stay connected with others. So I can’t wait to focus on organizing social gatherings with my LGBTQ+ neighbors in Colonie once it is safe to do so. Whether it’s happy hours at local restaurants, meeting up at the farmers market, or organizing a 5K to raise money for a local LGBTQ+ charity, I want to focus on events where we can increase LGBTQ+ visibility and build up our community by connecting with one another.
Q: You came out as a senior in high school. What advice can you give other young people who are LGBTQ and worried about coming out?
A: Whether you are young or young at heart, you already know that being in the closet is the heaviest of burdens that you can carry. Just know that you have people in your life who will love you no matter what. So find one person in your life who you trust and talk to them. Coming out to someone for the first time is scary, exhilarating and emotional but you will feel so much lighter for finally having done it. Coming out is different for everyone. And like life, the coming out process has its ups and downs. Just know that there is a whole LGBTQ+ community around you who can relate in some way to what you’re going through. If you need help, we’re here for you.
Q: There are laws on the books protecting the rights of LGBTQ people. It doesn’t stop discrimination. How widespread is discrimination against the LGBTQ community?
A: The short answer: it is very widespread. Discrimination, bullying, and violence are problems that LGBTQ+ people face everywhere. I am a white gay man, and I can only speak to my experience. It is really important to point out that the LGBTQ+ community is incredibly diverse and we each experience discrimination differently. For me, the fear of being bullied at school and disowned by friends and family had kept me in the closet as a teen and young adult. The fear of violence or being called a hateful name to this day makes me note where I am before holding my partner’s hand or kissing him in public. These are things we all face in the LGBTQ+ community and while laws on the book help fight these issues, society as a whole needs to stand alongside with us to make a larger difference.
Q: You majored in political science at Siena. Who is your favorite politician and why?
A: No politician is perfect but I’d have to say my favorite politician is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR was the president who led us out of the Great Depression and united us after the attack on Pearl Harbor and into WWII. His ability to connect to the American people and keep their support for four presidential elections is unparalleled. FDR modernized our country, created numerous economic protections for the American people (including creation of Social Security) and set our country on the path to being a world leader. He was a great politician who had the interests of the American people at heart, not his own.
If you would like to see someone featured in Five Questions contact Jim Franco at 518-878-1000 or [email protected]