Man helps Yellowstone workers celebrate LBGTQ+ pride

Samantha Hill

Throughout the month of June, communities across the country celebrate Pride Month rejoicing in people’s gender and sexual idenities, however for those living in Yellowstone National Park, it can be more difficult to find ways to do that.

Tyler Velasco who has worked in the park for the last two summers decided that this year he wanted to make a difference in the small community of summer workers.

“They are kind of here for such a short time it can be difficult to find other people,” Velasco, who is also gay, said.

He said he began with establishing a Facebook group for all LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, tansgender and queer) employees working in the National Parks system but he soon realized there was a growing need for people of just Yellowstone wanting to  connect.

He said the page started with about 12 people and has grown to over 62 people, never expecting it to get too big.

For him, being close-knit with others has been his biggest ally when coming out as a gay man.

“I kind of came out twice,” Velasco said.

When he was in elementary school, he started having feelings and even kissed a boy on the cheek, even though he only vaguely knew what gay was.

Velasco said after some teasing at school he went back into the closet and only again came out during middle school while being part of his school’s theater programs.

“The theater was a really good way for me to express myself,” he said.

Through the comings out, he had supporters in his family. Both his parents as well as his brother were there for all of it.

“I was pretty lucky in that way,” he said.

Because of his great support system, he has been involved with the gay community in the various places he has lived from Florida to Pittsburgh to now Montana and Wyoming area.

He also started an event for gay pride in the park for anyone unable to make it to larger events across the state.

Velasco said that over the weekend there will be  a Gay Pride celebration for those park employees who were able to attend some of the larger events across the state. The event is for employees only at one of the park’s biggest attractions.

Although he is hosting a big party for their own pride day, he also encourages anyone unable to go to the party to just host their own pride party in their community.

Velasco said he hopes as he moves to other national parks and jobs in the future that someone will take his place in supporting the gay community in Yellowstone.

Other park employees were interested in talking for this article, however were unable to disclose their names for personal reasons.