By Anne Hassler Heidel
McPherson News Ledger
McPHERSON—This year’s Pride celebration at Lakeside Park was the biggest yet, with more than 250 people gathering to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
The day began with a Pride walk from McPherson College to the bandshell at Lakeside Park, followed by speakers, including Kansas State Rep. Stephanie Byers, the first openly transgender person to serve in the Kansas Legislature, performances by House of Khayne, food trucks and children’s activities.
“Pride is not really about sexuality and gender; it’s about feeling valid, included, and supported,” explained Tricia Warring, who organized the event through the McPherson Coalition for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity (MCEID). “I was successful in bringing the love that I wanted to bring. I achieved my goal of creating a supportive environment for the LGBTQ people in my community. People had fun. They learned. They experienced new things.”
Waring was joined by co-organizer Josh Rice in bringing the event to life.
“Our personalities and skills compliment each other well, which makes for an amazing organizing team,” Waring said.
“Things turned out better than any of us could have even dreamed. So much love, acceptance and understanding. We easily hit 250-plus [people]; our food trucks ran out of food, even,” Rice said.
Following a successful Pride Festival, MCEID has plans for more community events, including a Color Run in September and working in partnership with The Pink Flamingo for Queer Crafts and Chat once a month in downtown McPherson, starting in August. You can follow MCEID’s activities on Facebook at facebook.com/pg/McPhersonCEID.
MCEID is also working with Twice Told Tales to provide inclusive and diverse books for local classrooms and childcare centers.
“Anyone in McPherson County who has a private library in their class can apply,” Waring said.
MCEID is a non-profit created to support McPherson-area organizations that encourage equity, inclusion and diversity through events, education, awareness and building community. Donations are being accepted to help support their work. You can contact MCEID at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Byers speaks about challenges faced in Kansas Legislature
State Representative from the 86th District Stephanie Byers spoke about her experiences as the first openly transgender person elected to the Kansas Legislature at McPherson’s second annual LGBTQ+ Pride Festival on Saturday.
Byers, who is a member of the Chickasaw Nation, grew up in Oklahoma and worked for many years as a music teacher and band instructor in the Wichita area. She was elected to represent the 86th district in 2020 by winning 55% of the vote.
“I represent all kinds of different communities. Each of us are trying to bring our best and adding it to the best of those around us. We all work together to try to create a better Kansas,” Byers said while addressing the crowd.
Concerning the challenges faced by transgender men and women, Byers said, “there are more people in our corner than stand against us.”
“We’re making progress. I’m convinced that those people who voted for the anti-transgender girls in sports bill, they don’t have connections with their constituents like they should,” Byers said. “The people of Kansas have moved beyond that position.”
Byers said the anti-transgender legislation introduced is less about sports and more about driving a wedge between communities.
“Pride happened when people got tired, they got fed up. Every time we have an event like this, we get to show the community who we are. We invite more and more people to stand with us,” Byers said. “We need to know that everybody is treated with dignity and respect.”