On Friday, July 16, social media pages launched heralding the creation of the Knox County Pride Alliance, the first specifically LGBTQ+ nonprofit organization in Knox County, Ohio.
The launch prefaces the forthcoming of a new 501(c)3 organization. The co-founders of this group are working to assemble a board of directors, identify a fiscal sponsor, and file articles of incorporation in the state of Ohio. These steps are expected to be completed in Fall 2021.
The mission of the Knox County Pride Alliance is to work in pursuit of a more equitable community in this central Ohio locale. The grassroots, community-based group will work to connect the local LGBTQ+ community of the greater Knox County area with information and resources.
Like similar organizations in nearby counties, the Knox County Pride Alliance will be managed by an all-volunteer and working board of directors, who are invested in this important work for the county’s LGBTQ+ community.
The Buckeye Flame spoke with co-founder Dr. Dorian Rhea Debussy (they/them) to learn more about the organization.
What spearheaded the formation of this group? When did discussions begin, and what types of support have you identified in the area?
TB: Conversations about the need for a group like this have been happening since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout Knox County, both the co-founders of this group and local LGBTQ+ leaders have noticed an ongoing and continued need for a resource hub to help support Knox County’s LGBTQ+ community. Ultimately, the discussions to begin formally organizing the group occurred throughout this summer, but again, the conversations about the needs of the local LGBTQ+ community have been occurring for much longer than that.
In terms of the support that we’ve identified throughout the county, we’ve noted some positive signs and potential future partners. Of course, I’d like to be clear that this is by no means an exhaustive list, but there are a few key examples to mention.
For instance, Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, regularly partners with state-wide LGBTQ+ organizations such as TransOhio, Equality Ohio and Equitas Health. Additionally, New Directions Domestic Abuse Shelter and Rape Crisis Center in Mount Vernon, Ohio, has centered the needs of LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence through their podcast series. Notably, over 100 local health and social service providers from across Knox, Holmes, Coshocton, and Licking counties attended LGBTQ+ inclusion trainings that were hosted by the Equitas Health Institute via Kenyon College last summer. And finally, GLSEN Central Ohio has done some wonderful work with helping to coordinate a county-wide gender and sexuality alliance (GSA) for local LGBTQ+ teenagers.
With that being said, LGBTQ+ inclusion work is happening across Knox County, and we’re excited to form this group to help amplify the wonderful things that have already been occurring over the past few years.
What are the organization’s short-term and long-term goals?
The short-term goals for the group are simple. First, we’re working to grow our social media presence, so we can help to direct LGBTQ+ people throughout the county to regional and statewide resources, which often aren’t as visible in rural communities like ours. Second, we’re aiming to complete our nonprofit paperwork and to establish a board of directors early this fall, and we’re intentionally waiting to do that, as we want to have input from students from Central Ohio Technical College, Kenyon College and Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
For the long-term goals, the big picture is really focusing upon fostering a more inclusive and equitable community for everyone in Knox County. In terms of specific action items, that’s really going to be guided by the needs of the community, and once we have our board of directors in place, we’re planning on connecting to various partners to better identify the needs that they’ve been seeing throughout their work. In short, those specific action items will be guided by what the local LGBTQ+ community needs and wants, rather than what we assume they need and want.
How did you identify the need for a nonprofit doing this work in Knox County?
This has really happened through a series of organic conversations and interactions that we’ve had throughout various parts of Knox County over the years. For instance, many of us have had individual conversations about how to access HIV prevention tools like pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP. in rural areas, and others have had similar conversations about access to hormone replacement therapy. Similarly, other folks have had continued conversations about finding a variety of other things, including trans-friendly barbers and salons, inclusive and affirming faith communities and much more.
In short, it’s difficult to point to a singular moment, but ultimately, day-to-day interactions with folks throughout the county have shown that these common questions about resources are only growing in number. With that in mind, this group is aiming to make information about those resources more transparent and accessible.
Will there be virtual and/or in-person gatherings? How will members stay connected with one another?
Until students from our local colleges and universities are back in the county for the fall semester, we’re specifically focusing on virtual work. However, we’re expecting to have some in-person gatherings soon. But of course, the question of how we’ll connect folks will be ultimately up to what the community wants and needs, so there are a variety of ways that those connections might occur. For the time being, we’re encouraging folks to share our social media pages, so we can reach people throughout the county and get a better understanding of what they want and need in the coming months.
Has Knox County had any Pride events to your knowledge?
Knox County has not yet had a Pride festival, but that certainly might be something that our group organizes soon. Even so, there are plenty of LGBTQ+ things happening throughout our community. In addition to the examples that I’ve mentioned above, our county is home to the state’s largest LGBTQ+ student conference — the Kenyon Queer and Trans Studies Conference — that is hosted biennially at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. While that’s not a pride festival, gathering nearly 300 LGBTQ+ students from across the state and beyond is certainly a notable LGBTQ+ event for our community.
Any additional information you would like to share with our readers?
We’d like to thank all the people who have shared their desire to have a group like this in Knox County. We’re putting in the work to make this happen because of these conversations, and I speak for our organizing team when I say that we’re so grateful for people trusting us and sharing their needs with us throughout the years. It’s because of our community that this is happening, and we’re so excited for what’s coming next!