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Out & About: Teen, Nonprofit Host Claremont’s First Rural Pride Event

  • Sage Hutchinson, center, prepares rainbow ribbon pins to give to participants at Rural Pride 2018 while Ariana Menard, left, cuts rainbow ribbons. Both are members of the Gay Straight Transgender Alliance (GSTA) at Stevens High School in Claremont. (Courtesy of TLC Family Resource Center)



Valley News Calendar Editor
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Claremont — Skylar Ford remembers the feeling of belonging he felt the first time he attended a pride event.

The Stevens High School ninth-grader recalls he had a lot of fun at the Portsmouth Pride event, but more important than that, he valued feeling part of a greater LGBTQ community. It also sparked an idea.

“I decided it would be easier if there was one close by,” he said.

He contacted the Claremont nonprofit organization TLC Family Resource Center, and people in that organization got to work on making Skylar’s idea a reality.

From noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Claremont’s first-ever Rural Pride 2018 event will take place at the Visitor’s Center Green, 14 North St. The rain date is Sunday.

“Ever since I was young, this has been a very straight town,” Skylar, 15, said. “Kids and anyone who needs support will know that there is support.”

The family-friendly event includes live music, a photo booth, a rainbow manicure station, a playspace for children and information booths that can connect people with community resources. There will also be rainbow-themed items for sale, as well as refreshments — including 12 dozen rainbow cupcakes.

“This is a historic first. Skylar is a trailblazer,” said Liza Draper, the TLC liaison to Rural Outright, a program at TLC that provides support to LGBTQ people, their families and allies in Sullivan County. Rural Outright has played an active role in the community over the last year by hosting social support groups, drop-in youth groups, workshops, open mic nights and films. The program, which celebrated its one-year anniversary this spring, recently staged a production of The Laramie Project.

The teens involved in Rural Outright also do advocacy work, including working with a phone bank to drum up support for the recently passed transgender rights legislation.

“Part of our mission is to connect the youth in our community to other events across the state,” said Matt Mooshian, chairman of Rural Outright, noting that a lack of transportation is often an obstacle to allowing kids to attend distant activities. “There’s layers of challenges a lot of times.”

With the establishment of Rural Outright, TLC brings programs closer to home.

“It can be very isolating in a rural community,” Draper said.

“It’s not that people will hate on you,” Skylar explained. “You won’t get the support you really need unless you’re involved in something like this.”

While TLC and Rural Outright are supporting the planning of Rural Pride, it’s mostly driven by the teenagers in the community.

“There’s been a lot of people that want this to happen,” Skylar said. “There’s an amazing amount of support that I didn’t expect at all.”

Editor’s note: For more information about Rural Pride, visit http://www.tlcfamilyrc.org/ruralpride.html or call 603-542-1848. For more information about Rural Outright, visit http://www.tlcfamilyrc.org/rural-outright.html or email ruralNHoutright@gmail.com. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.