Blake Hayes and Kelly Towle of Coast 93.1 at Pride Portland in 2023. Photo courtesy of Blake Hayes

Radio host Blake Hayes would start any Pride playlist with “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. Other must-haves include “Express Yourself” by Madonna, “Padam Padam” by Kylie Minogue, “Proud” by Heather Small. He also loves the version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” performed by the Dueling Drag Divas (Chi Chi Rones and Joanna). “I always find it really moving every time, to be in a gay space and hear that song done by drag performers,” he said.

The familiar voice of “The Blake Show with Kelly and Todd” on Coast 93.1 from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. took a few minutes out of a busy month to answer five questions about his Pride experience. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

What does Pride Month mean to you?

Pride to me was the first time I realized I can really be out. Also, there’s this community, and there’s a lot more people in the community than I thought. So I find Pride very important because it reassures the community that there’s others around, maybe closer than we thought, like us, and that we have allies who want to celebrate with us and also stand up for equality with us.

And I think now, more than ever, Pride is not just important but, not to sound dramatic, but life or death. There are so many places where our rights are trying to be rolled back, and for younger people especially who are trying to find their own confidence in who they are and their voice and their community, I think it’s more important than ever that those of us who can stand up and participate show them that community.

Many states are restricting access to gender-affirming care, we’ve seen debates about LGBTQ rights at legislatures and at schools boards, we saw threats at a local Pride event. Does this year feel different or more urgent to you in any way?


Yeah, absolutely. Luckily, in Maine, we’re quite well protected. But even so, there are efforts here in Maine to take steps backwards, and I think Pride is a reminder that we’re here and we’re not just going to give up all the work that we’ve done to take steps toward equality. Because we’re not there yet. Even in our communities, the Pride celebrations themselves have been threatened, in some cases with physical violence. So standing up and standing together is more important than ever and, I think, a huge driving force behind what will I hope be a very significant turnout of the LGBTQ+ community at the election.

Pride began as a protest, and now it’s also a celebration of how far we’ve come and of the community that we have, but the protest aspect definitely feels a lot more important this year with so many efforts to take rights away.

In your experiences with Pride Month, do you have favorite memories?

My first Pride, which was in Boston when I was in college, that will always be memorable because it was my first. One of the more emotional Pride memories for me was the World Pride in New York City, which I went to just a couple months after my partner at the time died suddenly. We had planned to go to New York together to celebrate World Pride. It was really important to me to still do that even though I was trying to find my way through the grief of dealing with his loss, and it was a very healing moment to feel supported by my community, you know, at an international level. He died the day after my birthday, and there was a gift that he had ordered for me that hadn’t arrived yet. He was a great gift giver and very thoughtful, and I didn’t know what it was, and all of a sudden, I got it in the mail. It was a rainbow pair of custom Converse that I was supposed to wear for our trip to World Pride in New York that year. I think back on that Pride as being emotional for a slew of reasons – gay people from around the world together, but also literally taking steps forward after that loss.

What are you doing to celebrate Pride this year?

2024 Pride is probably the most I’ve celebrated ever just because there are so many more events. It feels like we’ve hit a tipping point of events this year where there are so many local celebrations of Pride. I was in Ogunquit to kick off their Pride weekend. We’ll be at Pride Portland, and then hosting the Big Gay Dance Party that night. Then I’ll be in Provincetown for the last week of the month, and even though it’s not their Pride celebration, it’s pretty much the gayest place in the world to be during Pride Month.

So I’m feeling especially proud and especially out. I think that’s because of the climate. Pride events are probably going to see a really big attendance this year, not just in our country but in our world. It feels like people are trying to push us a few steps back, and this month especially is a time to put our feet forward.

How has Pride changed for you now that you have kids in your life?

I always loved seeing kids at the Pride events that were family-friendly. It always was meaningful to see kids because that is the future of acceptance and tolerance and equality. So that always gives me hope. So now to have our own kids at events is really meaningful because we see the impact of acceptance and tolerance at home. To show them more of our community outside of what sometimes can feel like a heteronormative life, to show them our friends and our community and how much everybody stands together, is symbolic and important for them to learn by experiencing.

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