Giving back to Flint's LGBTQ+ community with Mason Gallo

FLINT, Michigan — "I'm always inspired by this city," says Flint native Mason Gallo inside Cafe Rhema on a cool Tuesday afternoon. Wearing a black hoodie with the tagline "you are enough," Gallo is one of a few people in the city whose passion is advocating and fostering community for the LGBTQ+ community in Flint. "I have a strong passion and connection for Flint — it's never left me." 

As a "queer, non-binary transgender identified human," with the pronouns them/they and theirs, Gallo has been a driving force behind numerous initiatives to create a more accepting and supportive environment for Flint's queer community. The most recent is the Flint Queer and Trans Meet-Up at The Good Beans Cafe on Friday, May 17, from 6 to 10 p.m. The family-friendly event is one of many ideas Gallo and a core group of others have taken the initiative to put on. 

One of them includes a musician, friend, and fellow Flint native named Anna Toma. The two of them have been working tirelessly to make the queer and trans meet-up a vibrant celebration of love, acceptance, and diversity and to create a safe and inclusive space for the LGTBQ community and its allies. 

According to Gallo, she's the one "that helped put a fire under my butt with the events. She was referred to me by a parent of a queer child within the Flint community who was aware of my planning of some things, and she connected the two of us. With the help of Anna, an openly trans and queer, too, we were able to get the events up and going."

Flintside caught up with Gallo to find out more about their background and what to expect at Flint's Queer and Trans Meet-Up.

Flint native and queer activist Mason Gallo and their dog, Olive, pictured out and around Flint on May 4, 2024.
Flintside: This event is a queer event, but it has a big focus on transgender people. Can you share a little bit about your queer and coming-out experience?

Mason Gallo: “The reason why we specifically put trans in there is because we feel like, a lot of times, trans folks struggle with feeling like they are a part of it. We want to make sure that there's a huge focus and understanding that this is going to be a space where trans people can come and feel like they're welcomed and accepted. As far as my identity, it's definitely evolved over the years. I didn't even learn what trans was about until the late '90s when I was getting ready to do a panel discussion about sexuality. [Though] I didn't know what it meant, I always thought I was in the wrong body.”

Flintside: What moved you into the realm of advocacy and social justice?

M. Gallo: “We have a huge fight ahead of us, and I got involved very heavily. I think there's a lot more work that needs to be done. I feel safe enough to be visible and put myself out there, especially for those that don't. My leadership background, I think enhances that to be able to leverage and facilitate various ranges of personalities and relationships with people. I just have a passion for wanting to help, whether it's the queer community or the Flint community.”

Flintside: With that background, why put on an event like this?

M. Gallo: “We don't have meetups unless it's at a club or a bar. A big reason we need these meetups is to congregate and for us to come together and connect and network. My whole thing is creating spaces and opportunities to amplify. I also think there is a need or a desire for places that aren't necessarily surrounded with booze or alcohol.”

Flintside: How intentional were you all about advertising? 

M. Gallo: “I am a let's rip the band-aid off and let's go out of the way and stop being silent. But it's a fine line. Maybe it's because of my background and being on the front lines before protesting and stuff, but I feel secure in my stance and being able to help and make sure people feel supported if they were to come. And to take the action that we need to.” 

Flint's first Queer and Trans Meet-Up at The Good Beans Cafe promises a family-friendly and sober atmosphere for Flintstones.
Flintside: There's so much going on at this event, from mocktails, vendors, DJs, and tarot readings. How did all this come about?

M. Gallo: “It's going to be our fourth event. We're growing, and every time we have an event, more people sign up. We'll probably start to be more targeted, but for right now, if someone's interested in participating, why not? It's an opportunity for them to sell their things, get exposure, hang with other queer people, you know? We really wanted to focus on the sober community and people to be able to bring their kids and family.”

Flintside: We don't think family-friendly when we think about queer-related events. Where did this focus come from?

M. Gallo: “Listening to the community. I survey people and ask what the community wants because that's so important. This isn't about what Mason wants. This is about what we need to do for the community. If we're not listening to the community and what they need to make them feel safe and welcomed or even whatever their interests may be, then what are we doing? I hope that at some point we can, as we grow, be able to do more.”

Flintside: How do you feel about all the support and love shown by Flint’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies?

M. Gallo: “It's actually an honor. One big focus is that this day was picked because it's International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. This date, May 17, 1990, was the day that the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental health disorder, so it's an even more powerful day. The more I talk to people and see the support from the community it gives me goosebumps. There's more to come. My intention moving back was to help the queer community and the puzzle pieces are coming together. It's exciting.”

Flintside: Finally, what do you feel you have given to this life you’ve been granted?

M. Gallo: “The first thing that came was my authenticity and my passion. I think one thing that you get from me is that rawness — the realness in me. From my childhood and how I grew up and up until now, tenacity and perseverance to be able to continuously keep pushing forward, make change, fight for change, advocate for change, and advocate for people that can't.”

To find out more about the event, send an email to Gallo at: [email protected]
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Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.