Apr. 22—Pride will return to Norman this fall after taking a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Norman Pride Board announced this week.
Norman Pride is tentatively scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 8-10; barring any unforeseen spikes in COVID-19 cases, the celebration will be on, said Pixie Quigley, the vice president of the Norman Pride Board.
Quigley said that for the LGBTQ2SIA+ community, which thrives on togetherness and having a strong support system, having to cancel Pride 2020 was extremely tough.
"It's been such a difficult year for everyone, but especially for communities like ours," Quigley said. "...It was really heartbreaking to have to cancel Pride last year — we had really big plans for 2020 and it's been a really tough year, especially for those in the LGBTQ2SIA+ communities."
Quigley said with LGBTQ2SIA+ residents in Oklahoma already feeling unwelcome from homophobic and transphobic bills introduced and passed by the Oklahoma Legislature, Pride is a time for everyone in the community to come together and show love and acceptance to one another.
"The community needs the support now more than ever," she said. "So a really big focus this year is getting youth involved as much as possible and encouraging them to get in touch with those who want to participate. If they need help, we want them to know we're here for them and we are going to make Pride a big deal this year, for everybody."
Megan Straughan has gone out of her way to make LGBTQ2SIA+ youth feel welcomed and loved in Norman, and said Pride is often an extra boost to the teenagers she works with.
Straughan facilitates Norman Youth Safe Haven, an LGBTQ2SIA+ youth group run by St. Stephen's United Methodist Church in Norman.
"It's already hard to be a teenager, and then it's harder to be a teenager who's not straight," Straughan said. "And especially for kids whose home lives aren't as accepting, suddenly being in a place in their own town and seeing hundreds of LGBTQ+ people around them and walking in the parade and having their community members cheer for them is huge."
Straughan said taking teenagers to Pride for the first time and seeing the look of pure joy on their face is something she will never forget.
"Sometimes they're a little nervous because they might have heard disparaging remarks from family members or at school ,and just seeing their faces when they walk into Pride — and the students usually walk in Pride as well — it's so affirming to them, and it makes a huge difference in their mental health," Straughan said.
With COVID cases declining and the state in the final phase of its vaccination schedule, Norman Mayor Breea Clark said she is excited for Norman Pride to come back in the fall.
"Events like Norman Pride are at the heart of Norman's identity as an inclusive community and a city of festivals, and will be key in our economic recovery," Clark said. "I am hopeful this is the beginning of many popular events to announce their safe return in our city."
Registration to be a vendor or sponsor for the parade is already open on Norman Pride's website.
Quigley said that she wants the community to know that even though it hasn't hosted any events over the past year, Norman Pride is here to stay.
Reese Gorman covers COVID-19, local politics and elections for The Transcript; reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @reeseg_3.