DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Pride Month is celebrated nationally during the month of June. One organization in the Wiregrass aims to help members of the LGBTQI+ community.
Lisbeth Ash and Adam Riley are members of an organization that aims to support family, friends, and members of the LGBTQI+ community.
According to Ash, PFLAG of Dothan and the Wiregrass started nine years ago with about four members and has now grown to a group that meets on a regular basis.
“Even just knowing that it is available, I think is a very reassuring thing to the community,” Ash said. “As an ally, I want to be sure people understand they are not alone, we are available to help.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions the group put a stop to meeting in person and went virtual but starting in July, they’ll meet in person once again to offer support to those who really need it.
Ash encourages anyone to attend, even if you don’t necessarily know anyone in the LGBTQI+ community because she said oftentimes members are alone and need a little extra support.
“It can be a very vulnerable community and a lot of times when you are a vulnerable person, it is really hard to stand up for yourself,” Ash said. “It is easy to become victimized.”
Both Ash and Riley describe the support gatherings as a safe haven where people who are ready and willing to share their stories have the opportunity to do so. They said it’s great to be surrounded by a group that knows the day-to-day struggles members face.
“You know somebody in the LGBTQ+ community,” Riley said. “They’re part of your family, they’re people you work with. They are just everyday people.”
Riley said even though the Wiregrass doesn’t have an official pride parade or festival, he encourages everyone to celebrate by simply learning the history and reading about honorable LGBTQI+ members.
Both of the members of the group tell WDHN these monthly meetings offer a safe space for members and allies of the LGBTQI+ community. They said these meetings are completely confidential and open to anyone.
“In any place, not just here but in any place if you don’t have supportive people behind you, it’s hard to be yourself sometimes,” Riley said.
This is why Riley believes PFLAG allows people to be surrounded by a group willing to listen and can relate to their situation, which helps improve overall health.
According to Riley, it’s very complicated growing up in the Wiregrass and being gay. He said you learn to fit in as best you can until you find your place.
“Once you’ve found your place and you’ve found your comfort zone, then you come from a place of strength, and at that point then you can start showing the most important people in your lives, the best parts of you,” Riley said.