In the community

Ontario Pride event offers speaker, drag and talent show

ONTARIO -The community is gearing up to celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month Saturday, June 24, from noon to 3 p.m. at Lions Park in Ontario, at 790 S.W. 3rd Ave.

The Stronger Together Pride Event and Community Resource Fair commemorating LGBTQIA+ – an abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, or Asexual – and the Two Spirits and Ally community will feature about 20 community information booths, including Oregon Childhood Development Center, Lifeways, Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, and Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care.

There will also be a keynote speaker, a “family-friendly” drag performance, a talent show and a silent auction.

The term Two Spirits is used by some to describe Native people in their communities who perform traditional third-gender (or other gender-neutral) ceremonial and social roles in their cultures. According to the organizers, the idea is to recognize those people within the local Native communities. 

Levi Anderson, a community partnerships program analyst with the Oregon Department of Human Services, said the pride event is going to be “family-friendly” and more like a community picnic.

“It’s not so much something you’d see in a bigger city,” Anderson said.

This will be the second year a coalition of community entities has hosted the event. They include the state Human Services Department, Oregon Food Bank, Community in Action, Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living, the Immigrant and Refugee Organization of Eastern Oregon and Rose Advocates. The coalition, dubbed One Community All Spirits, aims to bring a diversity of people together and ensure they have the resources they need.

In the past, the event has been hosted by Project DOVE, a local organization established to help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

This year, the event will feature a keynote speech at noon by Ty McBride, a 1996 Vale High School graduate whose family has deep ties to Malheur County.

McBride, who came out as gay in 2000 while attending college in San Diego. In 2014, he founded his successful shoe company, Intentionally Blank, in Los Angeles.

During a phone interview, McBride said while growing up in Malheur County in the 1990s, people were coming out as gay. Nonetheless, he said, it was still rough being a gay teenager in a conservative community. Nevertheless, McBride said his small-town roots are just as much a part of his identity as his sexuality and being a self-described queer owner of an international shoe company.

Many teenagers who graduated high school in the 1990s, McBride said, did not feel like they could stay in eastern Oregon.

McBride said he would not come out to his high school classmates during that time, but when he went to college, he used that time to become his true self. 

Coming from a Malheur County family that goes back two generations, the coming out process was complicated. Although it was hard, McBride said he is proud of his roots, and part of what defines him is that he is a gay man who exists in both urban and rural spaces.

“I am proud to be the son of a cattle rancher from eastern Oregon,” McBride said.

He said he is not coming back to speak at the event to “ruffle feathers” but instead to reach any young person in the area who might be struggling. 

“I want to help that one kid from eastern Oregon, who’s facing what I faced,” McBride said, “just to see that it gets better and that I have gone on to have a close-knit relationship with my family while also having a very out and present life.”

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