Pride shines for month of June in OKC, Edmond
If April showers bring May flowers, then June brings rainbows. Pride month began June 1. The month long celebration reflects on the historical adversities minority groups have sought to overcome.
“Pride to me means a celebration of human progress: celebrating who we are, and being proud of who we are,” UCO student Olliever Buchanan said. “In a world full of hate, it is celebrating and honoring the trailblazers who came before us and made Pride a reality— as well as those who fight to keep Pride going.”
OKC Pride Alliance will bring back OKC Pride Fest and other events in June 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic paused the parades last year—and instead June saw major civil unrest after several instances of police brutality against members of the Black community. Because of this, OKC Pride Alliance emphasizes intersectionality and resource accessibility. The organization is providing free HIV testing, prescriptions for PREP (an HIV prevention medication) and free COVID-19 vaccines due to the lack of healthcare accessibility, “especially for minorities and people of color,” Vice President Ryan Tomlinson said.
“The ultimate goal for the alliance is not only to put on this festival and parade every June, or once a year, but also to continue it year round,” Tomlinson said. “Whether that’s providing resources to the LGBTQ+ community [with] medical or financial support, or even just support with coming out and directing them to the right place.”
Tomlinson says it is inspiring to see the continued growth of Pride year after year, and the community backing from local businesses. He also attributes the success of the parades to young people “who have increasingly become the majority.”
“I feel like it is a bright light for the future. [Young people] will put us in the right direction, and we’re helping them get there through Pride,” he said.
Students Alliance for Equality historian Olliever Buchanan says they are planning on attending an OKC Pride Alliance event at Scissortail Park. As a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies minor, Buchanan says this kind of education is important to understanding people.
“Everyone needs to be included and feel accepted in order to succeed,” Buchanan said.
In the SAFE mission statement, provided by their website, “The Student Alliance for Equality (SAFE) provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, and allied students, faculty and staff members.” The student organization holds events, meetings and provides resources for students on campus.
However, Lindsey Churchill, creator and director of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies minor, says one of the best ways to learn is to visit “The Center.”
“We have student researchers and sexual health ambassadors who can talk with you and help to answer your questions, or point you in the right direction with resources. We also have free HIV testing whenever the Center is open,” Churchill said.
Churchill received a doctoral degree at the University of South Florida. Both Churchill and Buchanan say the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the university’s Equal Opportunity Statement is important.
“Inclusive EEO statements and policies are shown to make people feel more included and and queer people more apt to work/feel comfortable at a place that has inclusive practices,” Churchill said.
Since the Stonewall Uprising that inspired Pride Month’s origins, drastic social progress has been made.
“Pride started as an uprising, a revolution against oppression. Many strides have been made for the LGBTQIA+ community since then but there is still a lot of work to go. Pride is definitely more commercial now, which can be good in the sense that LGBTQIA+ rights can reach a larger audience,” Churchill said. “However, it is also important to remember that the roots of pride are in rebellion, led by queer and trans POC.”
But, Pride, and supporting the LBGT+ community, continues for many in the community—even after June. Both OKC Pride Alliance and SAFE actively provide resources and education to the metro-community. Tomlinson suggests “surronding yourself with queer art, and exposing yourself to queer people,” and emphashizes listening to “queer people of color’s” stories.
For more information on OKC Pride Alliance visit https://www.okcpridealliance.org. For information on Women’s Research Center and LBGTQ+ Student Center visit https://www.uco.edu/academic-affairs/thecenter/.