SOUTH COAST ─ June is LGBTQIA Pride Month and communities along the South Coast are celebrating.
“It’s important that our community has pride in it, especially a rural community,” said Jamar Ruff, a member of the planning committee for Southern Oregon Coast Pride.
According to Ruff, Southern Oregon Coast Pride has partnered up with Q&A of Coos County, a community-based group that supports LGBTQIA youth, for Pride Month and its five free events. Communities along the South Coast are invited to participate, with most events available online.
The first event was Thursday, June 3 and it had a second part on Tuesday, June 8 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. These two events were what Ruff described as “Safe Zone Training.” The first event is Queer 101, while the second event is Queer 102.
“It’s open to the community,” Ruff said. “The Queer 101 is going to be a presentation around topics that cover training, including terms used in the LGBTQIA community, how to support folks who come out of the closet, and covers a Q&A as well.”
Ruff recalled a conversation regarding these upcoming trainings, where someone asked if “using the word ‘queer’ is offensive.’”
“I said, ‘the Safe Zone Training is a safe place to ask questions because you’re an ally but want to be mindful of what you’re saying and not want to offend anyone’,” Ruff said. “It creates a safe space for folks to ask questions and raises awareness on how to support and establish allyship….”
The two events are virtual due to COVID, giving participants who may not want to gather in a large social setting access to resources. To attend the free events, a link is available on Southern Oregon Coast Pride’s Facebook page.
Southern Oregon Coast Pride will also be at the Farmer’s Market in Coos Bay on June 16. According to Ruff, United Way of Southwestern Oregon is its sponsor and has been instrumental in helping plan this event.
“We will be showcasing resources like with HIV Alliance, as well as resources at home,” Ruff said. “United Way’s hashtag is #Live United. What better way than to pair that with Southern Oregon Coast Pride? We can #LiveUnited.”
On Wednesday, June 9 there was be Drag Queen Storytime on Facebook Live. Home-grown celebrity Justin Buckles, best known for his show Caravan of GLAM, has partnered up with Southern Oregon Coast Pride for this event.
“…(Buckles) has supplied someone to come in and read,” Ruff said. “It is awesome to bring (Buckles) back into the fold because he is … the reason we have pride in the community. It is definitely going to be exciting… I encourage everyone to tune in.”
On Friday, June 25, there will be an author meet-and-greet. This is co-facilitated with the Coos Bay Public Library, Southern Oregon Coast Pride, Q&A of Coos County, and United Way of Southwestern Oregon, Ruff said.
Ruff explained that Southern Oregon Coast Pride hosts a book club and previously featured April Daniels’ novel “Dreadnaught,” which “went over so well … we were like, we have to do a meet-and-greet.”
The event will be live via Zoom and Southern Oregon Coast Pride is offering to cover the cost for anyone who might want to read the book. To receive the book, fill out this form here.
“(The book) is the … origin story of a teenage trans girl learning to assert her identity while struggling with the … responsibility (of) being the most powerful superhero on the planet,” Ruff described. “It’s action-packed.”
The final event of the month is Wednesday, June 23 at 7 p.m. and is called “Talks Saves Lives.” This event surrounds suicide prevention, put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Ruff said.
Though this is a new event for Pride Month locally, Ruff said that AFSP and the Waterfall Clinic host the Out of the Darkness Walk every year.
“I love the fact that it creates space for conversations like this in a rural community, especially coming off the year we all have had,” Ruff said. “COVID has opened up some avenues around mental health and the notion that it’s okay to say ‘I’m not having a great day.’ Having Southern Oregon Coast Pride … have this as an event is huge and hope to bring more events like this to the community as well.”
Ruff added that Southern Oregon Coast Pride is looking at planning more events throughout the year, most likely to be in October which is now National Coming Out Month.
“We are planning events for October and are planning for what an in-person event will look like,” Ruff said.
As for the events this month, Ruff said, “We just want everyone to come out and have a good time.”