Gulf Coast Equality Fest provides safe space for celebration

Published: Oct. 23, 2021 at 10:00 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - For five years now, the Equality Fest has provided a safe space for celebration. There is reason to celebrate for the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s great that we have this type of community,” said Noelle Nolan-Rider with Vote Your Pride Mississippi. “Because I can tell you in 1994, my parents did not have this type of community. So, they were just sort of at a loss.”

For her and her wife, Rachel Nolan-Rider, it’s all about making sure that voices are heard through the political process so that any progress toward equality isn’t erased.

“Voting can make a difference in your life,” Rachel said. “It impacts your life directly. It’s not just this abstract thing that happens. You really have to make an effort to advocate for yourself.”

The festival brought in nearly 2,000 people onto the grounds of Harrah’s Great Lawn, some of whom are just beginning their journey. And Tracy Williams wants people to know that there is support for everyone on that journey.

“My youngest kid is trans, non-binary,” Williams said. “So, it’s very important to me that I have to support my own kid but I also want to be there for other families who may have a family member who has come out.”

She and Megan Craven are part of PFLAG, Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an organization with one goal.

“To be able to help families as they learn and as their child or loved one learns about themselves,” Craven said. “And to be able to help them to have the tools to help themselves and their loved one.”

That journey can be with spiritual guidance.

The Rev. Jane Bearden, rector of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Long Beach, said there is no “us versus them” in Christianity.

“Christianity is all about love, and affirmation, and welcome and inclusion,” she said. “It’s not about rules. It’s not about hate. It’s not about saying ‘I’m right and you’re wrong.’ "

The Gulf Coast Equality Council along with Scarlet Pearl Casino and Harrah’s Gulf Coast hosted the event.

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