'A wonderful experience': LGBTQ community to host second Pride Festival in Ardmore
Since 1994, the month of October has been recognized as 2SLGBTQ+ History Month.
Now a worldwide event, 2SLGBTQ+ History Month is endorsed by the National Education Association, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and other national organizations.
Locally, the 2SLGBTQ+ community will come together to make some history of their own, with the area’s second annual Pride Festival.
“It’s been a wonderful experience meeting so many in our community,” said Kemily Norman, chairperson of the Southern Oklahoma Pride Events board. “Our first meeting to plan the festival entertainment brought 8 individuals together who had never met before.”
One such meeting, held Tuesdays at the Dew Drop Inn, has provided opportunities for community members to build trust and relationships. It was at one of those #comeOUT meetings that Carter County local Lars Massey, a transgender man, met Norman and others for the first time.
Massey described himself as very shy.
“I don’t like being around a lot of people, but I went in there anyway,” Massey said. “I sat down and she [Norman] started talking about the group.”
Massey said he was isolated for much of his childhood and adolescence.
“There was this whole other world that was right in front of my face that I had no idea about.”
Hearing about plans for outreach groups in some of the outlying towns like the one he grew up in piqued Massey’s interest further. From there, Massey was on board.
The more involved he became, the more at peace Massey felt.
“I was excluded from going to my prom because of the gender of the person I wanted to bring as a date,” Massey said.
High school was an uneasy existence for Massey. Lack of familial support coupled with bullying at school left him without a safety net. “I didn’t really feel accepted there, but then I started going to SOTC,” Massey said. “I was able to meet other people from other schools who weren’t homophobic bullies.”
Pride events helping LGBTQ Oklahomans get involved
Thinking about his past experiences gave Massey a desire to get more involved.
“I feel like if there were groups like Southern Oklahoma Pride in those areas, things like that might not happen again, or if it did, someone would try to do something about it.”
Massey said he has struggled throughout his life with his mental health. According to data from the Trevor Project, a national organization dedicated to providing resources for 2SLGBTQ+ youth, transgender youth report significantly increased rates of depression, suicidality, and victimization compared to their cisgender peers.
Massey’s journey shows that our region has room for improvement in the availability of support and resources for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals and their families.
“If I had this kind of support when I was growing up, I wouldn’t be the mess I am now. I’m glad I ran into Kemily when I did.”
After months of online and in person meetings, almost daily chats and phone calls, and a trip to the Oklahoma City Pride parade, the group has grown together as well as in number. “I had never been to a pride parade,” Massey said. “I wish I would have been able to meet people like this earlier in my life.”
For the group, the growth of the event indicates the group’s positive impact in the local community. “It’s our second Pride event in Ardmore,” Norman said. “Last year was limited due to COVID-19 but was still well-attended. This year we are celebrating Pride for all our communities of Southern Oklahoma at Central Park in downtown Ardmore. This is a family event that all will enjoy.”