Beth Meadows is the president of Salisbury Pride. She's always been out. Beth has lived in Salisbury for years, and she says that the city was very different when she first arrived.
For Beth, food is love. She's worked in the grocery industry for her whole life. Her new job at Food Lion brought her to Salisbury.
Food Lion helped out in a big way to fund the first Salisbury Pride. Beth says that the company has changed a lot over time.
When a friend invited Beth to the first Salisbury Pride planning meeting, she wasn't sure Salisbury was ready.
On the day of the first Salisbury Pride, close to one hundred protestors threatened the celebration.
Today, people in Salisbury can talk about being gay. Beth thinks Salisbury Pride has had a big impact on the city.
Mike is a straight ally. He's a PFLAG dad in Salisbury.
When Mike's daughter came out to him, he was shocked. He worried that he might not be able to walk her down the aisle someday.
Mike looked for ways to support his daughter, but there weren't any options to get involved in Salisbury. Heck, he only knew one gay person in Salisbury. Then he found PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
Through his work on the Salisbury Human Relations Council, Mike helped to host celebrations for many different groups in the community. If Salisbury can have those events, Mike thought, why not an LGBTQ Pride?
Mike worked for Food Lion in Salisbury from 1975 to 1991. He says they've changed over time. Food Lion was always a big sponsor of PFLAG, so he knew they would help out with Pride.
Mike expected only a few hundred people at Salisbury's first pride celebration. Instead, close to 2500 showed up. Since that day, Salisbury Pride has been important to the community.
Justin Murdock and his husband were the first same-sex couple to marry in West Virginia. He's the co-chair of Mayor Williams' LGBT Advisory Committee.
Justin's family has a long history in Huntington and Wayne County. When Justin was in middle school, he thought he could ignore his identity to make his family happy.
Justin married his ex-wife when he was 20 years old.
There wasn't much of a movement for marriage equality in West Virginia when Justin thought about marrying his partner for the first time. He wanted to change that.
Justin didn't think that his grandma approved of his relationship with a man. But then he saw her newspaper clippings.
Even though it took a while, Justin pushed Mayor Williams to support the LGBTQ community in Huntington.
Jody Perry is the IT Director for Marshall University. He grew up in Wayne, West Virginia.
Jody describes his early life in Wayne as a wonderful childhood -- until his first crush.
Jody loved going to church until the day that the preacher said gays were going to hell.
It wasn't easy living in West Virginia in the early 90s. Jody always thought he would move to a big city, but that's not how things worked out.
At Marshall University, students hosted Blue Jeans Day in support of the LGBTQ community. Supporters weren't the only ones who dressed up.
Jody came out for the first time on the internet.
Jody thinks Marshall University makes a big difference to Huntington's LGBTQ inclusivity.
Okey Napier was a writer, an educator at Marshall University, and an outspoken LGBTQ activist in West Virginia. He passed away in the summer of 2018 at 51. Okey made significant contributions to LGBTQ rights in Huntington, and we hope to celebrate his legacy.
Okey grew up in a rural area in Wayne, West Virginia.
Of course I got introduced to Wonder Woman. I think 1975 is when the first episode aired. My mother introduced me to it, and little did she know she was creating a baby Amazon drag queen."
Okey knew that he felt different from other boys at an early age. He was terrified.
As a student at Marshall University in Huntington, Okey came out as gay for the first time.
Okey remembers the AIDS crisis vividly. He calls it the "plague years."
Gay bars played a significant role in Okey's experience in Huntington. Over the years, he watched them disappear.
It took me and my best friend Clyde a week to work up the courage to go into the Driftwood. We would pull in front, I mean, RIGHT in front, and we would look to make sure there were no cars coming up and down the street and we would get out and run to the door. You had to ring a bell and they would look through a peephole. If they knew you or if it didn’t look like you were carrying a bunch of baseball bats and bricks, they would let you in. But every time we would run up to the door and we would see headlights coming, we would run back to the car and jump in the car and sink down so nobody would see us going into this gay bar."
Okey was also well known for his outspoken drag persona, Ilene Over.
For ten years, Okey worked on a writing a book titled Make Me Pretty, Sissy. The novel follows the experience of a young drag queen growing up in Huntington in the 80s and 90s, just as Okey did.