Local Pride group looks to grow while navigating challenges

NORFOLK, Neb. - June is Pride Month, and an LGBTQ group in northeast Nebraska is looking to grow while navigating challenges.

Over 18 million Americans identify as LGBTQ and around 3 million live in rural communities, according to Gallup and a study from the Movement Advancement Project.

"Our identity is not talked about," said Mo Bailey, Vice President of Norfolk Area Pride. "For a long time, it's been a don't ask, don't tell type community."

The group is two years in the making.

"What I really hope is those people who are part of the community but aren't able to express that, find that there's an avenue to express their true selves," said Norfolk Area Pride's President and founder David Cockrum.

The non-profit's growth has been stunted not only due to the pandemic, but also a fear of being out in public.

"I felt like I wasn't safe," said Bailey.

Bailey says she has friends in the community who left Norfolk.

"Because they didn't feel safe here or did not feel like they had a community here."

A member of the pride group tells us her son moved out of state to be in a more welcoming city.

"When my youngest son came out, I had nowhere to go, no one to talk to," said Sue Weaver.

Weaver said she found a safe space through Norfolk Area Pride.

"It's just an outlet for me to hopefully help other parents," said Weaver.

The group's goal is for people to know they're not alone.

"I believe that every single person deserves to know that they belong," said Bailey.

Bailey is a member of the diversity council in Norfolk, something that Mayor Josh Moenning started in 2016.

He says the diverse group of 30-to-40 people aims to encourage inclusivity.

"It was an effort from the beginning to just to seek to create better relationships and friendships across the community," said Moenning.

Moenning says he hopes the city can help more groups know they have a voice.

"We want to be welcoming to citizens of all backgrounds and welcome everyone here so they feel empowered," said Moenning.

Norfolk Area Pride continues to grow slowly.

"Maybe someday we'll grow to the point where the city can support and protect us and we can be open and have a parade," said Cockrum. "But for right now I just wanted that sense of community."

Norfolk Area Pride is hosting its first in-person event on September 18. 

For more information on the Pride Festival visit Norfolk Area Pride Facebook Page.

Norfolk Area Pride is also hosting peer support groups via zoom.