Ardmore community celebrates first Pride Celebration
ARDMORE, Okla. (KXII) - An overdue LQBTQ+ Pride celebration brought around 50 people together in Ardmore for the first time.
For 12-year-old Emma Lane, she said this was her first Pride event after coming out to her family early 2020.
“It was really scary, when I came out it was like, really exciting because I got accepted and not everybody gets to experience that,” said Emma.
Event coordinator, Ari James with Southern Oklahoma LGBTQIA+ said he teamed up the Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Center to create Pride 2020 in Ardmore.
James says June is recognized as Pride Month but the celebration on June 27 is in conjunction with National HIV Awareness Day. He and Executive Director Jessica Pfau with Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Center says the event was to spread mental health and substance awareness within the LGBTQ+ community.
“Statistically, people like me who are LGBTQ who are out are more likely to be murdered, to commit sucided and have other issues that make it difficult for them to live in their hometowns and places like rural Oklahoma,” said James.
Pfau says she attends regular meetings with Southern Oklahoma LGBTQIA+, and said her goal is to continue responding to community members' needs.
“It’s our duty and we want to respond to the community’s need both in mental health and substance abuse services. That has been our mission, especially more recently to be very visible to anyone who needs care in those areas,”said Pfau.
It was around 25 years ago since Lee Sparks of Ardmore came out to his family and friends at age 28. He’s a family friend of the Lanes, and Sparks says he brought Emma to her first pride event Saturday.
“I wish I was able to do it when I was a lot younger. I feel like I missed out a lot in life because of it,” Sparks said. “It needed to be here a long time ago. I understand why it wasn’t, it’s not that open. I think it’s going to bring things to Ardmore, I think it’s going to open a lot more people.”
Lee and Emma are optimistic about community members living in Southern Oklahoma, and want to share to the public that “It’s never a wrong time to express pride in who you are.”
“Never be afraid to show your true colors. you can’t control what your sexuality or what your gender is, and it’s okay to be that, it’s okay to be yourself,” said Lane.
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