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Ardmore community gathers for first-ever Pride Celebration, highlighting new health services for LGBTQ community

Sierra Rains
The Daily Ardmoreite
A woman pulls her cart during the dog parade at Ardmore's first-ever Pride Celebration on Saturday.

The strong winds blew two flags in Ardmore on Saturday; one a rainbow flag and the other bearing a blue background with a yellow equal sign, which symbolizes the fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ community.

The flags weren’t the only bright symbols. The whole front yard of Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers was filled with rainbow decorations, dogs decked in rainbow tutus and individuals displaying colorful garments as a symbol of LGBTQ pride. 

Saturday marked the first Pride Celebration held in Ardmore, though LGBTQIA+ celebrations can be traced back nearly 50 years, with one of the first marches held in New York City on June 28, 1970. 

Ari James, who helped organize the event, helped start the local Southern Oklahoma LGBTQIA+ group around five or six years ago. James said he and the groups’ co-founder, Kyle Lawson, created the group to start bringing people together and help them find resources. 

Though the group had considered organizing a Pride Celebration for many years, James said it never felt like the right time until now. 

A woman walks with her dog, sporting a rainbow tutu, during the dog parade at Ardmore's first-ever Pride Celebration on Saturday.

Nearly a month ago, Ardmore gained a medical practitioner who James said “is not just LGBTQ affirming, but also does a lot of the community specific healthcare” previously inaccessible locally to Ardmore's LGBTQ community . 

Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers Executive Director Jessica Pfau said the nonprofit agency had been recruiting those services to the area for more than a year. 

“We finally got it done so we’re very, very excited about having him here,” Pfau said. “We want the LGBTQ community to feel welcome everywhere. So to offer his care is kind of just a first big step in that direction.”

Russell “Rusty” Rooms, owner of Diversity Family Health, now has an office space in the Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers facility. Rooms joined Pfau, James and others at the celebration on Saturday to help spread the word about the relatively new services and support the celebration, which he called “monumental.” 

Community members gather around the Diversity Family Health booth at Ardmore's first-ever Pride Celebration on Saturday.

Rooms said Diversity Family Health is based in Oklahoma City, where they have provided care for more than two years. Calls for LGBTQ healthcare providers in Ardmore ended up drawing Rooms to the area and through a partnership with Lighthouse, the new clinic opened its doors in early June. 

“They said ‘Hey we can’t find providers that we feel comfortable going to and talking about our whole life,’” Rooms said. “So this allowed us to bring those services down here to where they can come and talk about their sexual health, their need for transgender care — which most rural physicians aren’t familiar with.”

Rooms said many LGBTQ community members in rural areas have to travel great distances to get the healthcare services they need— some requiring all-day trips just for a 30-minute visit with a provider. 

The Diversity Family Health clinic in Ardmore offers primary care for all and specializes in transgender care, pediatric care for same-sex couples, HIV treatment and prevention and regular sexual health care. 

“We’re very excited about partnering up with Diversity Family Health and so this was an introduction to the community as a whole of Rusty and what he’s doing here, so it just seemed natural for us to be a part of it,” Pfau said, referring to the Pride Celebration. 

A woman holds her dog next to a cart, displaying a flag bearing the Human Rights Campaign logo and symbolizing equal rights for the LGBTQ community at Ardmore's first-ever Pride Celebration on Saturday.

As the Pride Celebration went on, individuals paraded their dogs around the yard, passing by the many healthcare and community nonprofit vendors. All around, community members shared smiles and laughter while viewing the dog parade, learning about resources in the area and displaying their pride. 

To find out more information about Diversity Family Health or to book an appointment, visit www.DiversityFamilyHealth.com or call (405) 848-0026.