Seymour celebrates love with third annual Pride event

“Most of us were born in a small town, we live in a small town, we need to learn to love in a small town, but most importantly, Pride tells everyone you are not alone and you’re accepted for who you are in a small town.”

Those words were from Michael Roop, an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, when asked about the importance in celebrating Pride locally while enjoying the festivities in a rainbow suit.

With clear skies for most of the day, hundreds gathered at Celebrations at Shops at Seymour to celebrate inclusion, acceptance and love — decked out in all colors of the rainbow for Seymour’s third annual Pride event.

The nonprofit organization Jackson County Pride Alliance organized and hosted this family-friendly event with a “small-town feel.”

The organization’s members include President Katrina Hardwick, Vice President Mars Rogers, Secretary Tiffany York, Treasurer Katie Schwipps and board member Carrie Miller.

“It’s especially important to see visible representation of the LGBTQIA+ community in our small town,” Hardwick said. “ Sometimes, it can be scary and isolating if you don’t see or know people in your community, so having this goes a long way in helping those feel welcomed and accepted.”

Hardwick said it’s especially important to make sure transgender individuals and transgender individuals of color, who are often more of a minority, feel safe and welcomed right now.

Vendors filled the inside of the event center offering LGBTQIA+ friendly products and information for individuals and families in attendance.

Emily Engelking from Jackson County United Way set up and operated the organization’s booth, which had information regarding the different programs offered by the agency. Those programs include Rock’n Ready, a school supply program, Covering Kids & Families and other community services.

“It’s important to support all facets of the community and let people know of the resources we offer,” she said.

As people shopped and made connections, officials with Jackson County Pride Alliance came onstage to provide information on their organization and some history of the LGBTQIA+ community.

“Our mission for the JCPA is to serve, empower and advocate for the well-being of our diverse LGBTQIA+ and allied communities by providing services that cultivate community, advocate for LGBTQIA+ interests and educate in the pursuits of our unequivocal rights to be known, heard, understood, accepted, respected and to celebrate the beauty of who we are, “Miller said.

She said this month is important to acknowledge all people matter.

“With Seymour already having a diverse community, it’s important to let folks be who they are in this small town,” she said.

JCPA also took a moment to recognize everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community by explaining what every letter in the acronym stands for.

“The LGBTQIA+ initials are not just a random collection of letters that represent our identities, but instead, these letters are living history that are continually evolving,” Hardwick said.

Out of all of the letters in the acronym, the “L,” which stands for lesbian, was the first letter to come into existence, according to the history of the acronym from National Geographic.

For centuries, the word had been associated with the works of Sappho, an ancient Greek woman from the island of Lesbos who wrote poems about same-gender passion.

The modern use of the term emerged in the 1890s in a variety of books on psychology and sexuality. Over time, it grew in popularity and was adopted by women who secretly, then proudly, loved other women.

In the late 1960s, activists reclaimed a decades-old slur, “gay.” Throughout the 20th century, same-gender attraction was largely outlawed, and other slurs that denigrated the community were common.

“Gay” was eventually embraced by men with open expressions of same-gender love, according to National Geographic.

In the 1990s, the bonds between lesbian, gay and bisexual people then led to the widespread adoption of the LGB acronym.

The “T” in the acronym came later into the modern age as the word “transgender” has been traced back to its earliest use in a 1965 psychology textbook and was popularized by transfeminine activists, such as Virginia Prince, who argued that sex and gender are separate entities, according to National Geographic.

The board continued to speak on the history and evolution of the acronym before thanking the audience for coming to celebrate with them.

That’s not all.

Event attendees were pleasantly surprised when Hardwick announced she would be officiating a wedding during the Pride event for a couple that became engaged during the 2022 Seymour Pride event.

Hardwick took a moment to recognize the Supreme Court decision that declared same-sex marriage legal in all states in 2015.

“Of course, you could have the ceremony with the intent and spirit all there, but think about it, legally, if you happen to love someone of the same sex, your love was not recognized in the eyes of the law until eight years ago,” Hardwick said.

Jennifer Hickam and Kimberly King first met on a dating app where they lived nearly three hours away from each other. After months of a long-distance relationship, King proposed to Hickam at the Seymour Pride event last year.

Now a year later, the couple tied the knot in the same place King proposed with their one-month old baby, Maggie, cradled in King’s arms.

The couple shared vows, exchanged rings and sealed it with a kiss as the audience cheered and clapped for the couple.

The evening concluded with a family-friendly drag show as people of all ages enjoyed the performances.