Lebanon celebrates a day of Pride

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Jonathan Pedersen said that when he was growing up, he didn’t have the resources to help him understand some of the “weird, random thoughts” that would cross his mind. The thoughts and feelings were related to the attractiveness of men, but he didn’t know how to categorize that.

“You don’t always understand what those pulls are when you’re younger, especially when you don’t have resources available to you,” Pedersen said.

As such, he simply cast those thoughts aside until he reached his 30s, a time when Pedersen was ready to evaluate himself and find those resources that helped him realize what those thoughts meant: he’s gay.

On Saturday, June 18, Pedersen spent the day at Lebanon’s first annual Family Pride Day at Academy Square hosting a table to help share the resources and support that weren’t as accessible to him in his youth, and to promote a Facebook group he administers, “Out in Lebanon, Oregon.”

“We all have our journey,” he said, “so I think we’re just trying to make resources available for conversation to happen.”

Multiple organizations such as Samaritan Health Services, Crossroads Community, Linn County Public Health and Jackson Street Youth also hosted booths to share their resources with the community, but mostly what was shared there was love and friendship.

People danced to music, painted hearts with sidewalk chalk, had conversations with booth hosts, took selfies in front of bright backdrops and worked together to wave a giant rainbow-colored parachute up and down as people ran underneath.

For married lesbian couple Kellie and Amanda Sterle, the day was “monumental” for them. Kellie had been helping organize the event through the Lebanon Downtown Association for months, and it was exciting for them to be part of the city’s first big Pride observance.

“We really want it to be for the kids, to show them that it’s okay to be who they are, whatever that means,” said Kellie, who emphasized the committee wanted to be sure the event was family-oriented and G-rated.

Two main features of the event included a Pride walk around Academy Square and the viewing of “Who’s on Top?,” a documentary about four queer athletes who climbed Mount Hood.

Despite testimony given by many in the community at recent city council meetings regarding hate and discrimination they’ve experienced due to their sexual identity, the Sterles said they never experienced those kind of problems. But, Kellie agreed, discrimination is part of the subject of LGBTQ, particularly in the past when people didn’t understand, she said.

“Just because we’re married to someone of the same gender doesn’t make us any less human, any less a person in this community,” Kellie said.

Encouraging conversation on the matter is what Pedersen believes will create a healthy community and help others understand themselves better.

“We don’t all have to agree, but at the end of the day we want the conversations, to have the opportunity to think about who you might be,” he said. “Our community is stronger and we are stronger when we understand.”

He was happy to see those who identify on the queer spectrum willing to step out and share themselves at the event, and to hear how they were comfortable being themselves and not feeling any hate while at the event.

“We want to thrive together, just like everybody,” Pedersen said. “It’s the unity of being able to be together, to be that little bit more open to who you are.”