Harrison County

LGBT+ Pride organizers ready to ‘come out of our proverbial closets’

Gulf Coast LGBT+ Pride Day

'We are here and we're out,' says Lynn Koval, joined by Stefanie Powers and Jana Riley. #GulfCoastLGBT+ Video by Anita Lee/Sun Herald
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'We are here and we're out,' says Lynn Koval, joined by Stefanie Powers and Jana Riley. #GulfCoastLGBT+ Video by Anita Lee/Sun Herald

Organizers of the first Gulf Coast LGBT+ Pride Day hope the event will be life-changing for young people who might not realize just how much support they have in the community.

The first celebration is coming together in a big way, with entertainment and speaking slots filling up for an afternoon and evening celebration June 24 at Point Cadet Plaza.

Stefanie Powers, one of the organizers, said she has heard from teenagers who are excited about the event, which has been publicized on Facebook. She hopes the pride day will help them as much as a march on Washington helped her back in the 1990s, when she realized that she is part of a large and diverse community.

“It gave me the confidence to be who I was,” Powers said. “It made me feel not so alone.”

Lynn Koval, the owner of Just Us Lounge, has been planning for four years to put together a gay pride event. She was convinced 2017 had to be the year because of the hostility Donald Trump’s election seems to have unleashed toward gays and minorities.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage, Koval, 50, does not want to see society regress to the kind of behavior she remembers.

“I was out in high school,” Koval said. “ ... When I walked in the bathroom, everyone left. It was like, ‘Lesbian’s here! Lesbian’s here!’ ”

Pride day events will offer uplifting messages from speakers, music, food, arts and crafts and informational booths. Gia Gunn, who appeared on Season Six of RuPaul’s Drag Race, will headline “Dragapalooza.”

Admission is free. Koval said light beer and wine will be served in a beer garden with a small admission price and identification bracelets for drinkers of legal age.

Organizers want people to feel comfortable bringing their children to the event, which will include face-painting and a chance to cool off at the plaza’s splash pad.

They hope to raise enough money to cover expenses this year. Koval envisions gay pride as an annual event that in future years will grow and take in enough money to support community nonprofits such as a gay youth center.

Malcolm Ingram, a documentary filmmaker from Canada, is working on a film centered on efforts to organize and pull off the gay pride celebration. Koval said he will return to the Coast to film over pride weekend. Ingram is the director of “Small Town Gay Bar,” an award-winning documentary also set in Mississippi.

Koval said, “We’re finding ourselves at a time when it is time to come out of our proverbial closets in the barrooms.”

Organizers also wanted to hold the event in June, national gay pride month.

They said the celebration will stretch over the three-day weekend, with Sipps Bar in Gulfport planning a kickoff party Friday night, June 23, Just Us hosting an after party June 24; and Club Veaux in Biloxi closing out the weekend with a drag brunch buffet June 25.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

Gulf Coast LGBT+ Pride Day

Friday, June 23: Kickoff party, 9 p.m.-2 a.m., Sipps Bar, 2218 25th Ave., Gulfport. Featuring meet-and-greet with Gia Gunn from RuPaul’s Drag Race, followed by drag show at midnight.

Saturday, June 24: Pride Day, noon to 8 p.m., Point Cadet Plaza, 121 Cadet St. off the east end of Howard Avenue, Biloxi. Featuring speakers, live music, Dragapalooza, arts and crafts, food, information booths, beer garden. After hours party at Just Us Lounge, 906 Division St., Biloxi.

Sunday, June 25: Drag brunch buffett, $10, starts at 11 a.m., Club Veaux, 834 Howard Ave., Biloxi.