The Ohio River Valley Pride Coalition (ORVPRIDE) is southern Indiana’s fastest-growing new LGBT advocacy group, thanks to three local women whose efforts to support their own children spurred them to create a similar space for LGBT youth.
Two of the group’s co-founders, Oretha Vest and Shelly Eldridge-Snyder, have children who are transgender. The third co-founder, Amanda Vinup-Noell, is bisexual and has a cousin who is gay. All have seen firsthand the discrimination their loved ones faced in school, in the community, and, unfortunately from other family members. They wanted to make sure any other children who were going through similar situations had a place where they felt accepted.
“I know our mission will be a successful one. We’ve already seen a great number of LGBTQIA individuals and allies reach out to us and want to be a part of this in its short span of existence. I like to think they know just how hard the 3 co-founders will fight for them, not just because we believe in human rights but also because we are the mothers of LGBTQIA children ourselves, and there’s only one thing worse than facing down a mother bear protecting her cubs and that’s facing down three!” –Oretha Vest, ORVPRIDE Co-Founder
“For the most part his usual sphere of friends have been supportive, but he has had more than one altercation while trying to use the boys’ bathroom,” said Oretha, describing what her son goes through on a daily basis. “He has been verbally and physically accosted. He has been pushed and called names. I always encourage him to report these students to his counselor but I know sometimes fear of revenge makes him wait to report it until it has escalated to the brink of imminent harm to himself.”
“It’s my deepest hope that ORVPRIDE will grow and become the interconnected support system between the local LGBTQIA community and small town America that we have all needed for a very long time.” –Amanda Vinup-Noell, ORVPRIDE Co-Founder
Shelly’s daughter, who is now grown and came out as an adult, nevertheless experienced some of the same things at her school. And when Shelly started to read about some of the challenges transgender people face, she knew she had to help other kids.
“I wept. I knew I had to help somehow,” she said. “Its infuriating, knowing that many things in her life will be more difficult because she is trans. Things we take for granted, like going to the women’s restroom. My goal is to change that for future trans kids and their parents. Not only trans individuals, but all LBGTQI people.”
Oretha, Shelly and Amanda have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Thirty people attended the group’s first official meeting in February, and since then each meeting has been similarly packed with LGBT young people, sharing their stories and finding community in a place where LGBT issues don’t usually get much public attention. ORVPRIDE even has official non-profit status as well as a presence in three states and 18 counties.
“We witnessed amazing things, kids and adults alike opening up in a safe place they were able to be themselves and take their walls down. It was so amazing to watch unfold and also sad that we live in an area that has beat them down at every turn.” –Shelly Eldridge-Snyder, ORVPRIDE Co-Founder
“We witnessed amazing things, kids and adults alike opening up in a safe place they were able to be themselves and take their walls down,” Shelly said. “It was so amazing to watch unfold and also sad that we live in an area that has beat them down at every turn. It made me realize just how hard it’s been on them growing up here.”
Adam Colen, an 18-year-old senior, agrees that it’s been hard. He says the group has really helped him cope with being transgender in a small town.
“I think living in a small town is an unique experience by itself because of just how much people know each other, but for trans kids, this can make it extremely difficult to get the respect you not only want, but deserve.” –Adam Colen, ORVPRIDE Member
“I think living in a small town is an unique experience by itself because of just how much people know each other, but for trans kids, this can make it extremely difficult to get the respect you not only want, but deserve,” he said. “I feel very outcast in most settings, especially at school because I do get the label of ‘the trans kid’, but while at ORVPRIDE, it’s a literal hug with open arms. They care about you as a person.”
The ORVPRIDE is growing by the day, and always welcoming new members. If you’re interested in joining, the group’s next meeting will be a pride march and family picnic on April 1st at noon in Arch Street Park, in Lawrenceburg.SHARE THIS STORY