SHERIDAN — The rainbow has been a longstanding symbol for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer community dating back to the days of Harvey Milk and his crusade. It’s a source of pride and a simple way those in the community know outsiders have their backs. Kenneth Allen, president of Sheridan Supports LGBTQ+, and his team are pioneering new ground and taking the necessary steps to make Sheridan an LGBTQ+ positive community.
Allen started Sheridan Supports LGBTQ+ five years ago when concerned community members rallied together for support. An informal meeting with only a handful of people has slowly grown into a group of 40 participants who are now actively involved in an official nonprofit.
“As the years went by, more and more people heard about the group and so we started doing monthly activities and created a place where people could come to just be themselves and have fun,” Allen said. “We decided to form a nonprofit so we can build funding so we can pursue some bigger activities for the community.”
Allen said through the nonprofit he hopes to educate Sheridan about the LGBTQ+ community. The nonprofit plans to host seminars, create groups in each of the schools and create a safe haven for anyone who is confused or struggling.
Nick Cordingly, Sheridan Supports LGBTQ+’s treasurer is mindful of the core values of the group.
“When we started we sat down and wrote our mission, vision, values; a lot of it was for education,” Cordingly said. “We want to open it up to the public and have seminars and invite community members so people are aware of the support that they have with the resources we have; I hear stories all the time of middle-school-aged kids not knowing where to go, but we’re here.”
Sheridan Supports LGBTQ+ set their sights on approaching the city government and creating a nondiscrimination ordinance to protect local residents from discrimination within a workplace or violence based on sexual orientation.
“It’s not just about jobs, it’s about lifestyle and wanting to be comfortable where you live,” Cordingly said. “A single mom of three children wants to feel safe just as a grandma living by herself does, and I want to be safe living with my husband and not having any worries about him, our jobs or our safety.”
Allen has been closely intertwined with local government the last few years. He ran for House District 29 last year, and he’s been working with the Wyoming Equality board fighting for more legislation that protects the LGBTQ+ community.
Allen pioneered the fight for the local ordinance last year, but felt their case was unorganized and rushed. The nonprofit refuses to make the same mistakes again and will approach Sheridan government sometime this year, Allen said.
By creating Sheridan Supports LGBTQ+ Allen hopes to create a safe environment not only for local residents but for any tourists who come to visit the Equality State. They hope to work with the city to advertise and promote a secure environment for outsiders.
“We should be fostering relationships instead of trying to cut each other down because you believe this or don’t believe in that,” Allen said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t be accepting and protecting, because at the end of the day we’re all humans.”
Sheridan citizens will also host the first Pride March Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. at the Cozy Corner at 112 Coffeen Ave. and continuing through Main Street and onto Grinnell Plaza.