Rainbow Pride of West Virginia is celebrating its 25th year in West Virginia this year. The organization was founded as an LGBTQ education and social advoacy organization and is an all-volunteer group. They’ve worked to expand their outreach and audience in the Charleston area, which has afforded them the resources to partner, cross-mentor, and collaborate with other groups around the state.
Chris Gosses moved to West Virginia 14 years ago to be with his partner Josh, a native of the Charleston area. He was a member of the Rainbow Pride board and now serves as president.
Rainbow Pride is one of a dozen LGBTQ groups that make up the West Virginia Pride Network. Although Rainbow Pride of West Virginia is the largest and longest-running Pride group, they’ve reached out to newer organizations to support their growth and have a bigger impact in the state.
Rainbow Pride also hosts the state’s annual June Pride Parade & Festival. Many other LGBTQ groups also hold their own events this month as well as during the year. In the Mid-Ohio Valley, Parkersburg Pride hosts a Drag Queen Bingo.
Last year, COVID-19 put events and outreach on hold.
“It pushed us to find ways to increase our online presence and move many events to a virtual space that still gave an opportunity to being visible and building community,” Gosses said. But this year’s Pride is “exciting because we are celebrating it throughout the entire summer and fall seasons. We just hosted a Pride Kickball game between Huntington Pride and Rainbow Pride of WV, celebrated Pride month with after-parties on patios of two neighboring businesses in Charleston, and held our first Drag Queen Bingo since the pandemic began.”
All events were well-attended and met with support from the entire Charleston area.
New events are also popping up such as “Power up the Pride” night with the West Virginia Power, West Virginia’s minor league baseball team. The game was held on June 10 and hosted local Drag performers, featured the team playing in rainbow jerseys, and drew crowds from around the state. Some members of Huntington Pride, Out MOV, and Morgantown Pride have all attended, as well as students from West Virginia University’s LGBTQ Student Center.
Rainbow Pride is launching partnerships with EquaHealth through WV Health Right, a health clinic focused on the LGBTQ community that offers trans-specific health care that is lacking in much of our region and state. West Virginia is one of many recent states passing anti-trans sports bills.
The organization is also focusing on health issues in the community. The Rainbow Run Virtual 5K, in partnership with Covenant House of Charleston, will raise funds to support Rainbow Pride of WV’s Educational Scholarship and to draw awareness to the hazards of smoking; the LGBTQ community tends to have higher rates of smoking.
Rainbow Pride’s last major event will be the Pride Festival Block Party on October 2nd in Charleston. The event will feature nationally known acts, a variety of vendors, and other festival activities.
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Alena Klimas is a trail enthusiast based in Asheville, North Carolina. Klimas is an avid mountain biker and trail runner.