This Saturday, come meet us as we are

June is a time for celebration and renewal. Classrooms temporarily close their doors to make time for family vacations, sports leagues, outdoors activities, and time spent enjoying the natural beauty found everywhere across West Virginia.

I’m a proud product of the Southern West Virginia coalfields. I grew up in Crab Orchard and attended Raleigh County Public Schools. I grew up as a member of Crab Orchard Baptist Church where I learned the value of faith and, most importantly, love. The social capital resulting from my associational ties to that congregation gave me the confidence and support to apply to Harvard University in Massachusetts. I graduated as the first in my family to attend college in 2014.

I’m also a gay man. I’ve known this from the earliest moments of my own consciousness. While I look back fondly on many aspects of my childhood in West Virginia, I also vividly recall the homophobia that was so deeply ingrained in the culture of my church and school. Reflecting on that formidable period of my life, it isn’t surprising that I never built the courage to accept myself personally or publicly as God had created me. We must change that reality if we want a brighter future for West Virginia.

It wasn’t until I put myself into a supportive environment that the process of self-acceptance began. I want to challenge my community to take a moment to remember that June is also a special time for celebration in the LGBT community. This is the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in NYC in 1969 and the first year LGBT citizens of Beckley will enjoy greater legal protections. We’ve made great progress towards achieving a more equal society, but there is so much more work to do.

This Saturday, June 15 Beckley will host its 1st Pride Picnic atop the Intermodal Gateway facility. If you’ve never been to a pride celebration, I challenge you to stop by for a free picnic and entertainment. LGBT folks are your neighbors, co-workers, and friends.

Come meet us as we are.

Cody R. Dean

Crab Orchard

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