Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Thursday, June 13 @ 4:08 p.m. / Community, Our Culture

Del Norte's First-Ever Pride Is On; Event Seeks To Provide Support, Fun to LGBTQ Community and Their Allies

Courtesy of the Del Norte LGBTQ Resource Project

At first the idea of challenging Del Norte County’s reputation for not being queer-friendly was daunting.

But when local youth were fearful of being “hate crimed,” the organizers behind DNATL Pride 2024 decided to proceed.

“It spoke to me about how important it is to do a large display of ally-ship,” Amanda Dockter, “station witch” at KFUG Community Radio, the fiscal sponsor for Saturday’s event, told the Wild Rivers Outpost. “Sometimes other voices are louder. But we do care.”

DNATL Pride 2024 -- “Wild About Pride: The Nature of Belonging" -- will start with a sidewalk parade at 2:45 p.m. and include a pet show contest, festival and vendor fair as well as performances and dancing. Its hosts include the Del Norte County LGBTQ Resource Project, True North Organizing Network and the United Methodist Church of Crescent City. The festival will be held at the church, 664 H Street in Crescent City.

About 30 vendors have signed up to participate, including organizations like Del Norte County Mental Health, Coastal Connections, Open Door Community Health Center and Sutter Health, which is also a sponsor, said Thomas Kelem, a local therapist who maintains the Del Norte County LGBTQ Resource Project.

Members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will hold a blessing before the pet costume contest, Kelem said. There will be speakers and an open mic. There are also a slew of other sponsors including St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Rx Safe Del Norte, Tri Counties Bank and Ming Tree Real Estate.

“People feel safer when there’s a community of people,” Kelem told the Outpost. “Just knowing that there’s enough support to have a Pride sort of changes the complexion of the community.”

Kelem came to Del Norte County from Chico, where he was the executive director of the Stonewall Alliance Center of Chico. He moved to Del Norte County in 2018 and up until two years ago had been working for Open Door Clinic.

Kelem began managing the Del Norte County LGBTQ Resource Project about two years ago. An online database created by a Cal Poly Humboldt student, the website aims to provide resources to the LGBTQ community.

There’s information for those in crisis, for teens and for individuals who are transitioning. People can find out when the United Methodist Church’s LGTQIA+ Safe Space weekly gathering meets as well as links to active organizations and Facebook groups in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

For Kelem, who decided to stay in Del Norte County after driving by a home displaying a gay pride flag, Pride is about connection and fostering a sense of community. The suicide rate among queer youth is higher than that of their peers, he said. Isolation and a lack of support are the two major factors, Kelem said.

This is why groups like local gay-straight alliance at the high school and junior high school levels are important, he said.

“[It shows] wow, I’m not the only one in the school and I can hang out with some people who get what I’m going through and are supportive,” Kelem said.

For Dockter, who grew up in Del Norte County and realized as a teenager that “bi-sexuality was a thing,” Pride 2024 is also about helping parents and other allies learn how to provide that support.

One of the goals with Pride 2024 is to provide the larger community with information about the queer experience, which includes self harm rates and how allies can protect people against self harm and suicide.

“I’ve been approached by a lot of adults over the years who confided in me that ‘my kid is questioning their gender, questioning their sexuality and I don’t know how to help them,’” Dockter said. “‘I know them being out and open in this world puts a target on their back. How do I help them? How can I show up for them?’ We wanted to be able to compile resources in a safe environment to help people learn and help people feel safe and supported.”

When Dockter and Kelem began putting out an open call for sponsors and organizations to help put Pride on, United Methodist Church Pastor Dana Gill offered the church as a venue. Del Norte’s Pride festival comes at a time when the United Methodist Church as a whole is welcoming LGBTQ clergy.

With True North across the street from the church, Pride 2024 morphed into a block party and has evolved from there.

“Ultimately, the recurring theme in all of the interviews I’ve done has been ‘we really want to help youth in our community feel safe,’” Dockter said.

Apart from a handful of nasty comments online, negative feedback has been minimal, she said.

“A lot of youth had expressed concerns that there would be pushback and some attempts at hate crimes,” Dockter said. “Our response has been we’re right next door to the police station and the sheriff’s office and we have allies in those places, so don’t try us.”


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