Local LGBTQ group makes history with Beckley’s first pride picnic

Raleigh County

People from all walks of life, sexual orientations, and gender identities made local history as they joined together to celebrate LGBTQ Pride in Beckley. 

On Saturday, June 15, 2019, Beckley Pride hosted the inaugural Pride Picnic, the city’s first event celebrating the LGBTQ community.

Beckley natives, Guy Belcher and Chris Hall were there to celebrate. 

“I’m so excited… it’s about time,” Hall said.

“It’s really amazing because it feels like everybody is noticing us and accepting us as equals,” said Belcher.

The organization formed to support the nondiscrimination ordinance that passed in Beckley at the beginning of this year — a pivotal moment for gender equality in our area.  

Beckley attorney and human rights commission member, Robert Dunlap, publicly advocated for the ordinance.

“Now folks are brave enough to step out and demand their acceptance,” said Dunlap.

Vice President of Beckley Pride Melissa Keaton agreed.

“I think a lot of people have been silent in Beckley about how they identify, because they thought it wasn’t okay,” Keaton said. “But if you get here and see how much support you have to just be yourself, I think it can be very helpful for people.”

Open to the public, the event welcomed everyone to not just celebrate with food, music and entertainment, but to learn about gender equality as well. 

“It’s not just for the gay community, it’s for everybody… to see that love is love, no matter how you look at it,” Belcher said.

Community members and leaders showed their support to the local LGBTQ community. Some even offered free hugs for those whose parents may not have been so accepting. 

“Bottom line is if your father is not man enough to love you irrespective of who you happen to be, bring it in,” Dunlap said. “Because I’m here for a hug and your community loves you.”

Those who traveled from nearby cities that do not celebrate pride said they hope other towns will follow Beckley in embracing the LGBTQ community.

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