A Look Back at Laramie PrideFest
Last month Laramie celebrated PrideFest in conjunction with Pride Month, hosting a bevy of events that honored and embraced the many facets of Laramie’s LGBTQ+ community. There were storytelling events, crafting opportunities, conversation and community unification moments, and even an event to cheers one another with handcrafted beverages.
“Laramie its own sphere. It doesn’t feel like the rest of Wyoming to me,” explained Kevin Rossi, Laramie PrideFest Board Chair. “Laramie has put in a lot of effort to grow.”
While Laramie is a “bright blue spot in a red state,” as Rossi explained, in a place like Wyoming which has the 1998 Matthew Shepard incident to taint its history, PrideFest aims to bring inclusion to all of Wyoming.
“We’re still your neighbors, and you’re still ours. We want to come to the table. We know the media is telling you this narrative. It’s not actually that way. We’re still Wyomingites.”
The Neighbors We Know
Rossi recalled the story of Larry “Sissy” Goodwin, a cross-dressing man from Douglas who died in 2020. Goodwin, an educator and Air Force veteran, was a social justice activist. As a father, he wanted his children to stand up for what they believed in, and one of his big questions was why it was socially acceptable for women to wear jeans, but not for men to wear dresses.
“The town accepted him and loved him because they knew him. He was their neighbor. But when others showed up to celebrate Pride with him, it was a little bit of an issue for them. Something foreign was happening.”
Acceptance of the known is one thing, but differences can be hard to understand and accept. “That is a big barrier for some folks. They feel their culture is being trampled on. We have been trying very hard not to do that…but also, we’re allowed to take up space here, too,” Rossi added.
PrideFest wants to welcome all cultures and voices to the table, and they make events open and welcoming to the public, even to those who disagree with Pride, LGBTQ+, or cultures who are outside of the norm.
“Even at the [Pride] march, we stuck to the sidewalks. We didn’t get in anyone’s way. We want to be welcoming, even to those who disagree. It’s…‘You can be mad at us, but we haven’t harmed you in any way. Here’s some food if you want.’”
The last several years have been politically divisive, and Rossi and the other PrideFest members aim for compassion and understanding for all viewpoints. “People who disagree with PrideFest and don’t want to see it happen…. And the people who love these events… probably have family members on the opposite “side.” They’re still your family.”
PrideFest hopes to offer community and family to marginalized voices, first and foremost. Those faces are often changing, as Laramie can be a temporary spot for many residents.
“There are always new faces. Diversity. The face of Laramie is always going to be changing. But we’ve got to make sure it’s an accepting place.”