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Drag King AJ Spanks raises a pride flag during his performance of "Bohemian Rhapsody" during the Drag Show at Baker University Theater at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, On March 21, 2022.

City of Athens, OU celebrates Pride during June and throughout the summer

The month of June signifies the celebration of LGBTQ+ pride, recognizing the historical feats that queer individuals have endured and honoring the accomplishments of current queer communities.

Pride Month is celebrated in June to honor the Stonewall riots, a series of protests led by members of the LGBTQ+ community in New York City in response to police raids of the Stonewall Inn. In the years following, Pride Month has recognized the discrimination queer people have faced and important steps towards queer progression and acceptance.

Athens will celebrate Pride this month through various events hosted by the Ohio University LGBT Center and the Southeastern Ohio Rainbow Alliance, or SEORA.

The Athens Pride Fest, organized by SEORA, will consist of a Pride Shuffle June 10, with special Pride-themed drinks at participating bars, a Drag Show June 11 at Eclipse Company Store and a Field Day June 12 in Richland Avenue Park with games and food. 

Chris Nevil, executive director of SEORA, said these Athens celebrations differ from those in larger cities. 

"Ours is very community-oriented," Nevil said. "So it's not necessarily just for the LGBTQ+ community, it's really for anybody. (It's for) allies, and anybody, of course, within the community to come and also bring their families."

Through his work at SEORA and his excitement for the Athens Pride Fest, Nevil said it is emotional to see the growth of LGBTQ+ resources and the expansion of Pride celebrations in the area.

"(Pride's purpose) really is to honor those that were before us that ultimately have allowed us to live the way we live today," Nevil said. "But it's extra personal for me having grown up in this area and not having those things."

While the Athens Pride Fest will host June's pride celebrations, the LGBT Center is hosting a Summer of Pride series, extending the Pride celebrations into July and August. These events will include a body-positive, LGBTQ+ friendly pool party and a Pride party on West Green. All dates for the Summer of Pride events are still yet to be announced.

Luvina Cooley, a senior studying anthropology and communications coordinator at the LGBT Center said the importance of having events not only throughout Pride Month but throughout the entirety of the summer encourages further appreciation and recognition for queer communities.

"I think being able to have these types of events that are occurring during June, during Pride Month, but also even after that, it's really great to engage with the community and also to feel supported and seen in your own identity," Cooley said.

Among the numerous events throughout the summer, Cooley said the diversity of events also benefits this year's festivities. 

"We're excited about the various ways to get involved," Cooley said. "I'm really excited for the diversity because all of that stuff is really wide range."

Micah McCarey, director of the LGBT Center, said it is particularly significant this year to celebrate Pride in joyous and reflective occasions.

"This year seems especially important because there's so much anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that has people feeling worried about our rights and protections," McCarey said. "So taking the opportunity to look back at all the advocacy and achievements that we should take pride in is really the spirit of the season."

This legislation includes the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade, cited by a draft opinion obtained by Politico. The potential alteration of Roe v. Wade has raised concerns about how this would affect women and transgender men and the potential for such overturning to impact same-sex marriage laws, which can be linked to abortion rights

Due to these concerns for LGBTQ+ rights, Karlyn Steadman, a SEORA board member, said it is even more important to embrace and support those in the community. 

"People still feel like they have to be very closeted," Steadman said. "It's important to each of us to show our support and that you can come and be celebrated for who you are."

Throughout all of the possible celebrations throughout June and beyond, Steadman said honoring LGBTQ+ Pride in Athens reinforces that there is a welcoming community in the area for queer individuals.

"When we were younger, we couldn't get married to who we wanted to, or we had to be closeted," Steadman said. "We want to celebrate where we've come from ... to where we are now. We love our community and we're here to celebrate everything we're able to be in Athens."



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