Grayson Pride highlights inclusiveness, acceptance with 2021 event

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Nearly 40 community groups, businesses and other organizations came together to share a message of love and acceptance in Pecan Grove Park in 2019 as Grayson Pride held its first festival in Grayson County.

Grayson Pride hopes to bring a message of inclusion, acceptance and fellowship for the LGBT community when the organization holds its second Pride event this weekend at Pecan Grove Park in Sherman. 

The free event will run from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. Saturday at Pecan Grove Park. Organizers will be raising funds in memory of Sammi Mitchell-Henderson, a transgender woman who was struck and killed by a motor vehicle in Denison last month. These funds will be used to support transgender youth in the area.

The event is one of countless other Pride events that is taking place across the country throughout June aimed at increasing awareness and acceptance of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people within the community.

"The event on Saturday is going to be Grayson County's second Pride, "Pride 2021" and will serve the LGBTQ+ community in Grayson County," said Kodi Miller, vice president and co-founder of Grayson Pride. "It will also serve to bring together the community and let people know that we are here for inclusiveness and fellowship."

This year's festivities will include food trucks, vendors and entertainment throughout the day. Beyond this, Miller said she wanted to use the event to share information on the LGBT community not only to those outside it, but also those who may be struggling with with their identity or being accepted for it.

"We are just trying to get resources out there for people — everything from inclusive and reaffirming wedding venues to health care providers that are inclusive," she said. "We are just trying to make sure people know we have those local resources for them."

The Pride movement started in response to a police raid of the Stonewall Inn — a gay bar that served the gay community of New York — in 1969.  The bar was raided in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969. Crowds of estimated hundreds to thousands began to grow around the bar as patrons, staff and suspected members of the mafia were taken from the bar and loaded into patrol wagons. 

Hostility and frustration about the raid continued to grow until the crowd began to riot against the arresting officers. The riots and following protests led to the first gay pride events and parades in various cities across the country the next year. 

The moment has growth over the years, with many large cities holding events in recognition throughout June.

"Pride started in New York City and other major cities as a riot," Miller said. "There were people in the LGBTQ+ community that were being harassed, arrested, just for walking down the streets or eating in restaurants."

The local efforts started when Miller and Grayson Pride President and Co-found Valerie Fox were working together on advocacy work for a transgender student in Oklahoma. This work led to discussions about bringing this same support closer to home. 

This ultimately led to the first pride event in Grayson County in 2019. The event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the fact that there are many people, ranging from business and restaurant owners to community members, who are LGBT, Miller said it can be difficult for some people to find the acceptance and support that they need. NBC News reported in 2020 that 40 percent of LGBTQ youth "seriously considered" suicide in the past year.

Miller said the past year was difficult for many LGBT youth who do not have a strong support network at home. Some spent the year away from school, a place that they find acceptance, and at home with an unsupportive family due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miller said that she hopes that this year's festivities will help these youth and others see that they are are not alone and there are people out there willing to accept them for who they are.