Dark clouds hovered overhead, a slight rumble rolled through the sky and then a soft splatter of rain started to hit the ground. The rain, however, did not keep the party from continuing at Ames Pridefest.
With over 1,000 people in attendance, downtown Ames was filled with color for one drizzly afternoon. Attendees included Iowa State students, faculty and staff as well as Ames community members and people from all over the state of Iowa.
“It is important to acknowledge those people in our community who are not here,” said nicci port, co-chair of Ames Pride, during her opening speech for Ames Pridefest. “For many in our city, Ames is not a safe place to celebrate gender and sexual diversity. In addition, we in the LGBT community are not often welcoming, even to our own members. We are still a community that perpetuates racism, ableism, transphobia and a host of other harms on our own LGBTQIA+ siblings; [we've] got to stop.”
Ames Pridefest 2019's main focus was education, compared to many other prides that focus on visibility. With over 60 vendors, attendees could learn about the different LGBTQIA+ friendly groups and companies in or around Ames, such as Barilla, who was handing out free boxes of pasta, or PFLAG, an organization for parents of LGBTQIA+ children.
“Pridefest is really a community and family-focused event,” said Katharine Suski, volunteer coordinator for Ames Pridefest. “We really focus on education a lot. It’s fun and a celebration but it's also focused on education and making change and supporting families.”
Continuing the education theme, Ames Pride put together different sessions of educational programming that took place within the Ames Public Library, one of Ames Pride's partners for putting on Ames Pridefest.
One of the programs was called “Logistics of Care: Accessing Mental and Primary Health Care as a Trans or Non-Binary Person,” which was a panel that focused on issues surrounding healthcare and suggestions to solve them.
A, the moderator for the panel and a member of the board of directors for Ames Pride, asked the panelists how old does someone need to be to know they are transgender.
“A developmentally normal child knows their gender between two and four years of age,” said Dr. Katie Larson Ode, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa. “It is true that little kids have trouble differentiating between their gender identity and the gender role that is assigned but that doesn’t mean they don’t know their gender.”
Kelsi Kennison, a licensed marriage and family therapist, agreed with Ode and said that it is not quite the black and white answer that parents usually want when they ask.
The moderator then asked the panelists to talk about the steps trans individuals have to take to receive hormone therapy.
“We do not start giving hormones to people until they are truly in puberty,” Ode said. “That's because all the therapies treat puberty.”
Ode also said that starting social transitioning as soon as possible is the most beneficial thing someone can do until they start receiving hormones. Examples of social transitioning can include using a person's preferred pronouns and name or letting the person dress as they wish.
Ode said most medical practices require a mental health assessment before hormonal therapy, which can be done through most mental health care providers. Another important note from Ode was that in the state of Iowa, for children to receive hormonal therapy to transition there needs to be parental consent before anything can happen.
When it comes to adults wanting to receive hormonal therapy to transition there is no waiting period due to them having already gone through puberty, but they are still required to do the mental health assessment.
The moderator asked the panelists to list some friendly health care providers and how to find them.
Kennison stated that psychologytoday.com is an excellent resource for finding mental healthcare providers and it allows users to filter searches.
Ode talked about how the University of Iowa has a very transgender-friendly environment and that she helps run an LGBTQ clinic on campus.
Another one of the programs was called “Playing Dress Up: Caregivers Panel,” which was a panel that had panelists talk about parenting their LGBTQIA+ children.
Amy Popillion, the moderator and a senior lecturer of human development and family studies at Iowa State, asked the panelists to list LGBTQIA+ friendly resources they used when their children came out to them.
These resources included PFLAG, The Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success, Iowa Safe Schools, the Ames Public Library, the Ames Community School District and Facebook groups for parents of transgender children.
The moderator asked the panelists if they had unsupportive family members and how they handled the situation.
Suski, a mother of a trans son, said all of her family went along greatly with it and that everyone supports her son and uses his correct pronouns and name because, in her family, family comes first no matter what.
“I have been clear from the beginning it's not an option, here is my kid and this is how it is,” Suski said. “I would totally mamma-bear them if anyone would ever dare.”
The other two panelists agreed with Suski and said they support their children fully and if anyone doesn’t support them they don’t need to be in their life.
Outside of the educational programming, there were tons of entertainment options for attendees to interact with and enjoy. Besides poetry readings and live music, there were also two drag performances, which drew a huge crowd and packed Douglas Avenue. Very few attendees left Pridefest even as it started to downpour rain. They stayed to watch the drag show and enjoy each other's company.
The first performer was Nikki Love, who came out onto the stage to “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. Teasing her pink thigh-high boots, she wore a black sheer robe, which she then tore off to reveal a peach colored leopard bodysuit as the song changed to a mashup mix.
Steven-Anthony Shakers, the host of the drag show, popped onto the stage in a red and silver pantsuit and totally rocked the stage with a Jonas Brothers mashup song. He performed several high kicks before jumping off the stage and going into the crowd to do twirls, ending with a dead drop.
Jade Knight, a returning performer for Ames Pridefest, started off her performance with a cartwheel while dressed in a rainbow bodysuit and black knee-high boots. She heavily interacted with the crowd, both onstage and in the crowd while accepting tips.
Prunella Deville, a long-time staple of Central Iowa drag shows, wore a rainbow dress and matching rainbow socks with a giant crown sitting on top of her blonde hair. She performed “Drag is Magic” by Nina West, which got the crowd pepped up and cheerful during the rain.
Macie Maize, a recent graduate of Iowa State, owned the stage while wearing a navy blue bodysuit with white polka dots and black heels. She ended her performance with a dead drop.
Jamison DeMornay-Sanchez, a drag king, dressed like a bad boy daydream in black pants, a t-shirt, a denim jacket and black shades. He accepted every tip with a smile that melted the crowd’s heart.
Sofia Rico, the current Miss Gay Latina Des Moines, was in a shiny teal sequined blue and white bodysuit with black thigh-high heels. She took over the stage with tons of hip movements that drew lots of tips.
Kade Lovewell, a drag king, came onto the stage in black pants, a white shirt and a red and black bomber jacket. He rocked a backwards hat and a chain that gave him a bad boy vibe and made the crowd go wild.
Lonika Labelle, a 12-year-old and an Ames favorite, performed “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato in a black and white outfit. She whipped around her long brown hair and even dropped into the splits in her black heels.
By the end of the show, the crowd was soaked by the rain, but they kept cheering for more from the performers who went on to perform a second show later in the day.