Wind River Pride Thrives in Lander

Wild Iris Mountain Sports owner Amy Skinner kicked off Pride Week with the Houlihan Narratives in the Carnegie room at the Lander Library Friday June 24.

[Some community members quoted in this article will remain anonymous out of concern for their safety]

Lander celebrated Pride Month last week with a schedule of events organized by Wind River Pride from Friday through Sunday. Pride has been hosting picnics in June for years, but this year the Wind River Pride Drag Show was a welcomed event to the Lander pride celebration.

Friday night kicked off the celebration with The Houlihan Narratives hosted by local business owner Amy Skinner in front of a packed Carnegie room at the Lander Library Friday evening. The Houlihan Narratives were created to give a safe public space for LGTBQ+ stories to be told in a historically anti-LGBTQ+ area of the country with speakers told stories adhering to the theme “coming home.” 

Multiple stories told Friday night involved personal experiences of bringing home same sex partners to meet family members who either didn’t know their child was gay, or knew, but didn’t approve of their sexual identity. 

“It was easier to stay away from my parents,” said one speaker about her experience bringing her first same-sex partner around her family for the first time, “That conflict that we have to deal with with loved ones is a really tough one.”

Another speaker spoke about his experience bringing his boyfriend home to meet his grandmother for the first time: “Introducing your loved one to grandma when you’re coming home isn’t always the best one.”

The youngest speaker of the night, who was raised in Lander, ended their speech with “I’m finally proud to say I’m queer and non-binary, and that I’m proud to be a part of this community.”

Following Friday’s Houlihan Narratives on Saturday was the inaugural Wind River Pride Drag Show followed by a dance party hosted in Lander Bar’s Colter Loft.  A crowd of over 200 gathered for the show at sunset in Lander’s Jaycee Park. Wind River Pride organizer Ari Kamil played MC at the event and gave a history rundown of how drag got its start in the United States. 

“Drag is a very political queer art form,” said Kamil, “Since the 1920s and the first drag balls in Harlem, New York, they became a safe palace for BIPOC and queer folk to gather and escape the subjugation they were experiencing in their societies.”

To the audiences’ cheers and applause, performers dressed in drag took the stage to rap, sing and lip sync a variety of original songs and covers throughout the event. 

One Lander local, dressed in form-fitting sequin dress, commented on their feelings about the new event being held in their hometown: “I grew up in this community,” they said, “Never in my life did I think we’d have a drag show here… I’m so proud to be here tonight.”

For many LGBTQ+ people living in Fremont County being publicly true to who they are isn’t something they can do without feeling scared.

“I’ve never presented myself like I am now,” said drag show organizer Ari Kamil, “But I feel very perceived here and that makes me feel unsafe.”

Behind the Babe Ruth League state championship finals on the baseball field in City Park, the Wind River Pride Picnic took place Sunday afternoon under the shade of the cottonwoods. BBQ was provided along with arts and crafts, and a costume contest followed by a youth speaker panel to conclude Pride’s docket of events.

“As nerve wracking as visibility is, it’s the only way to make progress in normalizing queer culture – which is why I do it even though it’s scary,”  said Kamil. “If Wyoming were able to become a safe place for queers it would require being humanized and normalized… Being able to exist peacefully – that’s the goal.”