It’s all about the joy for 2024 Lafayette Pride Grand Marshal

Peyton Rose Michelle, Executive Director of Louisiana Trans Advocates and Pride 2024 Grand Marshal, stands in front of the Y Lafayette sign in Parc Sans Souci. The Y Lafayette sign is painted in the colors of the Progress Pride Flag and Michelle sports the Pride Grand Marshal sash.
Peyton Rose Michelle, Executive Director of Louisiana Trans Advocates and Pride 2024 Grand Marshal, stands in front of the Y Lafayette sign in Parc Sans Souci. Elliot Wade

Centering joy and uplifting people are paramount for Peyton Rose Michelle, especially in the wake of a legislative session that has negatively impacted the LGBTQ+ community. 

Michelle, the first openly transgender person in Louisiana to be elected to a state political party and executive director of Louisiana Trans Advocates, is the Grand Marshal of this year’s 4th annual Pride Acadiana festival Saturday in Downtown Lafayette.

My Lafayette: Peyton Rose Michelle

Before the formation of the Acadiana Queer Collective in 2022, Lafayette hadn’t seen an organized Pride event in years. A block party in 2021 really kicked off the effort for a bigger celebration, as previous Pride events had been much smaller, and lacked ties to the greater Lafayette community. Michelle, a longtime advocate and activist from the area, says it was “pretty sad” to have to travel to other parts of the state to celebrate.

And Michelle is centering that celebration this year, especially in the wake of a legislative session that codified several bills Michelle and other advocates say negatively impact the greater LGBTQ+ community, especially transgender people.

Under the new laws, which take effect Aug. 1, teachers are barred from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity during instruction or extracurricular activities, unless that discussion is part of a government-approved curriculum. Students and teachers at public and charter schools will be protected from disciplinary action if they refuse to use a student’s pronouns if they differ from the student’s sex assigned at birth. And transgender individuals will be forced to use bathrooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth in public and charter schools, domestic violence shelters, and adult and juvenile correctional facilities.

“Our state legislators passed some of the worst anti-LGBTQ+ bills that they could have,” Michelle says. “It’s such a blessing to be this year’s Grand Marshal, so that I can kind of advocate for joy like I advocate for survivability.”

The 4th annual Acadiana Pride festival will feature another Pride parade, community resources, food and a variety of performances on the main stage, along with representatives from community groups and organizations across Acadiana. The event is family friendly and serves all ages, and Michelle says it’s more urgent than ever to be there for young LGBTQ+ people.

“It’s important to show the youth that it’s OK for them to be whoever they want to be,” she says. “To me, Pride means you can be whoever you want to be. And it also means that you should be investing in joy, whatever that means for you.”