Events celebrating Pride Month are taking place this week in Springfield, culminating with Saturday’s Pridefest, to honor the LGBTQ+ community.
Philip Pullian, GLO board member and part of the Greater Ozarks Pridefest planning committee, states that events like these continue to move citizens towards greater acceptance.
“We hope to continue progress and a strong momentum forward and the only way that we can really keep promoting that progress is to make sure our voices are heard and our faces are seen.”
A Springfield resident for 15 years, Pullian says he’s witnessed a positive change first hand.
“I think that we are definitely headed in the right direction. I think that we’ve seen a lot more allies come out, and a lot more support for the GLO Center, and for our annual events.”
GLO stands for the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of the Ozarks. It is one of the earliest community centers of its kind, and a main sponsor of events this week.
Becca Doss, committee member of the Springfield Pride Committee, feels community members have “been largely supportive.”
She notes that support can be harder to come by in smaller, rural areas of Missouri. But she and others from smaller towns feel that Springfield is very friendly by comparison, thanks to all the resources it provides.
“Springfield feels more welcoming because there is a Gay and Lesbian Center of the Ozarks, there is a Pride festival, there is a couple of bars, and there are events that people can go to.”
However, there are still challenges facing those that identify as LGBTQ, she says. It’s sometimes noticeable when people learn she’s a lesbian.
“I have met with mixed reactions, and there are certain people and places you just kind of avoid, but overall I’ve had some good experiences as well.”
Doss says that she feels “excited” about Pridefest this weekend, this being her first time on the committee and having performed in the past. She also points out that it’s “more than just a performance,” and that Pride can mean many different things to different people.
“It’s a celebration, it’s a protest, it’s a vigil, it’s a testament, its so many things wrapped into one and I think it’s very important for our community to have Pride recognized in our city.”
She also states that it’s a time to remember those lost along the journey towards acceptance and equality. In particular, it’s a chance to remember the victims of last year’s shooting in Orlando, where a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub.
“We’re here and we’re queer, so we despite the odds stand and celebrate and are proud.”
As for the events leading up to Pridefest, Pullian says there’s a little bit for everyone, from fashion shows to the march on Saturday.
History plays a key part in these events, according to Pullian.
“It’s very important for us to remember where we came from, and why Pride month is so important.”
A part of honoring the regional history of the LGBTQ+ community is through a free showing of the Normal Heart documentary at the Moxie Cinema on Thursday. There, community members will provide their own personal perspectives when the play debuted in Springfield nearly 30 years ago.
In 1989, the city came into the national spotlight after an outcry of opposition to the production of The Normal Heart on the Southwest Missouri State University campus. The story is based in 1980s New York City and profiles a gay activist who finds himself at the forefront of the fight against AIDS.
In October 2014, the production returned to Springfield to mark the 25th anniversary of its showing. This time, the controversy was not with the play, but with a recently amended non-discrimination ordinance by Springfield City Council that extended protections to LGBT persons. In April 2015, after a referendum petition placed the revised law before voters, it was repealed. Opponents said the bill was unnecessary and would infringe on their religious beliefs.
Steph Perkins, now the director of PROMO Missouri, lived in Springfield at the time and was a part of the No Repeal Campaign.
“It’s still legally okay to fire someone for being gay or transgender in Springfield, because that ordinance was repealed and the state law hasn’t caught up,” he said.
However, Perkins notes that the No Repeal Campaign brought several issues forward that many were unaware of, such as the amount of discrimination in the community.
“Even though we lost the vote in that campaign, I think that Springfield is actually better than it was before that campaign. It brought out people to be more vocal allies than they were before,” says Perkins.
He adds that regardless of the outcome of the vote, people stepped up to change the community.
As for this week’s events, Pullian encourages members of the community to come out to learn more or even volunteer.
“If you have a reverence for our history and for where we’re heading, definitely take this opportunity to get involved.”