Let’s queer the air

Stef Fortney’s Guthrie Pride event aims to combine acknowledgment of existing local diversity with an easygoing, inclusive atmosphere.

While Stef Fortney is no low-key human being, Out in the Open, her Guthrie Pride event this year, aims to offer guests a relaxed air.

"No titties or taints” is her edict, and Fortney hopes allies and families will turn out June 24 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. The weather in Guthrie is expected to be hot and sunny with temperatures hitting 100 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

“It’s about being more visible,” Fortney said. “It’s not just about a sense of allyship from certain folks in town, but all of us being able to gather and say, ‘We’re all here.’ We’re the people who groom your dogs, teach your kids, run Ghost Walk and Yum Yum Junction and Pollard Theatre. Part of Pride and why it’s important to celebrate in Guthrie is because we already exist here. It’s just a matter of reminding the town we’re already a vital part of everything happening. We help keep the gears moving. It’s about being proud of this community; at its heart, Guthrie’s already progressive. We have this really cool, dynamic mixture of people you don’t find in so many little towns. Guthrie’s never worked as a place that’s exclusive. We welcome people. It’s important to have Pride events in smaller places for people who aren’t as likely to attend events with big parades, huge crowds, where they might not be comfortable. We’re offering a space for people who might not want to be around the big flamboyant stuff we immediately associate with Pride.”

No alcohol will be sold, but the nexus of the festivities is The Shoppes, 117 E. Oklahoma Ave., which is across the street from the Wander Inn, WanderFolk Spirits’ tasting room.

A DJ will be playing Disney songs and showtunes with accompanying karaoke and the city’s animal shelter is bringing pets for adoption.

“John Pagonis of Terra Rosa is bringing out a mural-sized canvas as a community art project that will be displayed at the gallery this fall. Our Drag Queen Story Time will be hosted by Vera Ball, around 6 or 7 p.m. so our drag queen doesn’t immediately melt. Festivities galore, but Out in the Open is intended to have less of a festival feel and more of a picnic atmosphere,” she said.

Fortney’s passion and compassion are in tandem.

“I’m gonna say it out loud. I’m hopeful for America, because I feel like if we can survive our current era of crisis, we’re raising generations that’re more adaptive than we’ve ever been. We’re all unique — I just don’t want anyone else’s valid life and experiences to make us feel unsafe, to take away any rights that are just so basic, it seems like a gimme. The goal is holding Pride events where we’re absolutely openly celebrating queer culture, but showing it can be framed within semi-rural red state life. It’s about joining together, getting a chance to talk with people who have similar experiences. There aren’t a lot of spaces for us to have those conversations,” Fortney said.

“It’s about finding homeostasis with diversity, the balance between everything that’s here, finding the way it all works together. It’s not unachievable — it’s just really fucking hard,” Fortney said. “For one day a year, here in town, there’s a part of me that goes, ‘Hey, look! Take a moment, look around. See the faces? Don’t forget, when you’re speaking words about a group of people, that group consists of individuals you know.’”

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