After a year away, Casper Pride is back, hosting a week-long series of events showcasing  that, yes, 'The future is queer.'

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That tagline, 'The future is queer,' is the name of Casper Pride's final event of the week, taking place on Sunday, June 13th. It's an event designed to educate and empower individuals to make their community better, in terms of health, youth support, social services, political advocacy, and allyship. After a week of celebration, this event will serve to prepare the community for 'life after Pride Week.'

But first.

But first there is the 'Taste the Rainbow' community dinner. There's the Open Mic Night. There's the Rainbow Collective Art Show, the Pride in the Park event at David Street Station, the Drag Church Brunch, and so much more.

All of these activities are designed to celebrate people being who they are, loving who they want, and living the way they are entitled to, namely: freely, openly, and without abandon.

That's according to Casper Pride Chair Mallory Pollock, who said that the goal of Casper Pride is to make this year's event bigger and better than years past but, more importantly, the goal is to let the community know that Casper Pride isn't just a week-long festival; it's a staple of the community and it is a resource year-round for those who need support.

"That's why, at our first meeting, we came up with the theme of 'Reimagined,'" Pollock stated. "What does Pride look like when we're not meeting? When we don't have festivals and events and it's the other 360 days of the year - what does that look like?"

Pollock said the Casper Pride Board began meeting in early February and they decided almost immediately that they were going to have in-person events this year. In 2020, due to COVID restrictions, Casper Pride and the Natrona County Health Department offered a drive-through Pride event but, Pollock said, this year they wanted more.

And they got it.

10 events spread out over 5 days makes this Casper Pride Festival its biggest. There is truly something for everyone. One of the most exciting events is the 'Taste the Rainbow' community dinner, which will kick off the week's festivities.

"One thing that I'm really proud we were able to pull off is a free community dinner," Pollock shared. "We didn't want money to be a barrier for anyone. It's also a designated sober event, so there won't be alcohol at that one, which I think makes space for the people for whom alcohol isn't their thing."

And, really, that's what Pollock said Casper Pride is all about- making space for people. It isn't about fighting or arguing or aggravating; it's about making space for people who, for many, have never felt like they had a place at the table.

Thankfully, there are many partners in the community who are eager to offer their seat, or their support, when needed. David Street Station, ART 321, the United Church of Christ, the Good Food Hub, Backwards Distilling Company, Racca's Pizzeria, Occasions by Cory, and even the city of Casper itself have all offered their time, resources, and support to make this week a special one for all involved.

"It takes my breath away," Pollock said of the feedback she's received from Casper businesses.. "It is just unreal. From 2019 to 2021, we doubled our sponsors. And to just see so many people step forward has been amazing."

Another amazing aspect of this year's Casper Pride week will be the final event, taking place on Sunday.

'The Future is Queer' is serving as a 'What's Next?' conversation for Casper Pride and community members. The Facebook event listing states that "We've taken the results of our 2019 LGBTQ+ Community Survey and are ready to make moves on queer issues with you! We've gathered four impactful leaders in their fields and they have an action plan for YOU to help better your community over the next year."

Pollock said the goal of this event is to educate and empower community members on issues facing the queer community.

"Number one was suicide awareness and prevention," she stated.

Which makes sense. Numerous studies have determined that the suicide rate among LGBTQ+ youth is significantly higher than that of the overall population. There are many reasons for this but, according to Western Michigan University, "LBGT youth do not kill themselves because they are gay. Most LGBT youth consider suicide in response to bullying, discrimination, homophobia, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, violence, gender nonconformity, low self-esteem and societal and family rejection."

Wyoming already has a staggeringly high suicide rate, according to the CDC. Experiencing discrimination and rejection from family could certainly add to that, so it's important to Pollock and the rest of Casper Pride to let people, especially young people, know that there is a place in this community where they can find acceptance, acknowledgment, and love. For those people, for the shy, the scared, the repressed, the depressed, the anxious, the hurting - there is Casper Pride.

"Your community is here," Pollock said. "You have people here that care about you. Even if you don't see them year-round, outside of Pride week, they are here. And I want everyone to rely on each other outside of those five days. I want us to still be a community and have that feeling of pride outside of just this one week."

Pollock said that she is proud to be a member of this town and that it is becoming more and more open to this segment of the population.

"Casper is a frickin' amazing place to be," she beamed. "We've got room for everyone here. I want people to know that this tiny part of the community is  loved by the bigger community. We're finding more and more people that are willing to step up and say 'We want you here, too.'"

A full list of events taking place during Casper Pride week can be found here.

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