BUCKHANNON — The first Buckhannon Pride Celebration brought together members and friends of the LGBTQ community in Upshur County and around the state.
The event held at Jawbone Park on July 1 featured a talent show, speakers and informational booths.
Mayor David McCauley welcomed those in attendance with a reminder that the City of Buckhannon has already taken steps to prohibit discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
Buckhannon became the fifth city in West Virginia to accord protections to the LGBTQ community at the urging of former city councilman John Waltz, according to the mayor.
McCauley drafted the resolution while he was city attorney and it was adopted by the city council on May 2, 2013.
Three specific findings McCauley quoted on Saturday are: “The council of the City of Buckhannon hereby immediately shall prohibit discrimination in employment with the city based upon any person’s sexual orientation. The city strongly urges the West Virginia Legislature to enact legislation to amend the West Virginia Human Rights Act, the West Virginia Fair Housing Act, and any other state statutes to end discrimination against persons as attributed to their orientation. The city council encourages everyone in our Buckhannon-Upshur community to undertake affirmative steps and promote the adoption of policies to end all discriminatory practices based upon a person’s sexual orientation.”
McCauley called the resolution “a good start.”
He recalled the history of the Stonewall riots, which led to the first Gay Pride marches in U.S. history.
“On June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village,” McCauley said. “The Stonewall was a favorite tavern and gathering spot for many segments of the gay population. Harassment of gay people wasn’t something new, but it’s what this raid spawned that became so important to the Gay Liberation Movement.
“For days following the raid, the effects of which were miscalculated by NYC police, thousands gathered in protests that turned violent.”
“After nearly a half century following Stonewall ... perhaps the better method of realizing LGBTQ acceptance would be to ‘insert’— meaning to integrate,” he said. “What do I mean? I believe the LGBTQ community might want to focus on becoming more involved, integrated into all of our local institutions. Be more visible, be supportive, become bigger players in the good things comprising our community.”
McCauley encouraged those present to attend city council meetings, Create Buckhannon meetings and volunteer in the community.
Leslie Bakker, a representative of the PFLAG chapter in Huntington/Charleston, said, “This is tangible, visible information for your community that you all have courage and you are willing to share your love and strength for each other.”
Bakker said PFLAG used to stand for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Now PFLAG is for everyone who wants to help support members of the LGBTQ community.
“It does focus on parents a lot,” she said. “Twenty years ago when our son came out to us, there was nobody to talk with. There was no question in our hearts and minds that we would support him.”
But Bakker said she got connected with PFLAG, which helped her and her husband navigate unknown territory.
Carol Priest, with the Central Outreach Wellness Center, shared information about services offered by the clinic, including HIV Primary Care, Hepatitis C Treatment, comprehensive gay health care, culturally competent care and comprehensive transgender health care.
Priest wanted to stress that the clinic also offers PrEP and nPEP HIV Prophylasix.
The PrEP prevents HIV 99 percent of the time if taken every day, according to Priest.
The clinic has two locations: 127 Anderson St. Suite 101 in Pittsburgh, Pa. and 95 Leonard Ave, Suite 203 in Washington, Pa.
Sydney Hosfeld was recognized for her help in organizing the event.
Hosfeld and her mother, Lisa Hollen, were at a city council meeting in Philippi and a representative from Fairness WV spoke about his experiences talking to legislators.
“I was thinking how other communities have organizations like Fairness and we don’t have one at the moment,” Hosfeld said. “I was like, ‘Why don’t we start something where we can celebrate LGBTQ members of our community, because I know there are a lot. I wanted to create something where we could come together and share our ideas for what we want to see in the community.”
Hosfeld asked her mother what could be done with Upshur Indivisible, and the idea of a pride talent show evolved.
Dannie Stiles, one of the organizers, said the event went well.
“It’s a good, diverse crowd of different ages and sexualities,” he said. “It’s a good inclusiveness of the Buckhannon spirit in my opinion. Everyone is here to support each other, which is the way it should be. These kind of events are important to see that the community is diverse. Small town PRIDES are definitely one of the ways to show how everyone in the community is important and everyone’s voice should be heard.
“I hope they will actually take away that we are here, we are part of the community.”
There has been interest for several years in starting a PFLAG chapter locally.
“Soon, we will have an initial touch-base to see who would be interested,” Stiles said. “With it being a national organization, there are different steps you have to go through to organize a chapter. PFLAG is probably the best ally group I have ever worked with. It is very important for parents to feel part of a community as well, and one thing I have noticed about the community is sometimes the parents aren’t embracing their children and they are kicking them out. I think they should realize that their children need love, and it needs to be unconditional. PFLAG is an excellent way for them to get involved to understand what their child is going through.”