Marshalltown Pride

Local LGBT community members talk Pride Month, personal experiences

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“I think the observation of the month kind of helps bring exposure to families and allows for conversations that otherwise might not occur.”

June is LGBT Pride Month, and people within and outside of the LGBT are celebrating around the country; Marshalltown’s Sarah Story is one of those people.

“I think that Marshalltown is a great location to be in,” she said.

As a bisexual woman, Story said questions about her orientation are common from those who aren’t completely familiar with the concept.

“It’s nice to have a community that doesn’t frown upon it, necessarily,” she said.

For Lexi Vaughn, a lesbian woman from Marshalltown currently taking classes at Upper Iowa University, celebrating Pride Month is a new experience.

“This is my first year of celebrating Pride Month being out as myself,” she said. “Pride Month means a lot to me because you see all these people being happy with who they are.”

Vaughn said she had the chance to celebrate the month in Des Moines with her girlfriend, and called the experience “beautiful.”

“To me, Pride Month is kind of a happy and sad month,” said Andy Lothe, a transsexual young man from Marshalltown. “Being a youth in the LGBT community, there’s a lot of history I don’t know about that I’ve had to learn on my own.”

He said things like the Stonewall riots, AIDS victims in the community and other significant historical events need to be reflected upon during the month.

Lothe, Vaughn and Story all came out within the last few years.

“I didn’t ever believe in love before I was OK with myself … I finally learned to be OK with who I was,” said Vaughn, who came out in 2015.

Story, who graduated Marshalltown High School in 1996, said it felt odd to hold hands with another woman out in the open for the first time after she came out as bisexual in 2014.

“The first time holding the hand of a person of the same sex in public, it was like ‘OK, I hope nobody says or does anything negative because of this.'”

Although there still exist negative attitudes toward members of the LGBT community, Marshalltown was deemed a fairly safe place.

Lothe said his father, Pastor Scott Lothe of Laurel United Methodist Church, and his mother, accepted who he was.

“With my dad, he was very accepting of it, a few members of the United Methodist Church actually came up to me and said they supported me,” Lothe said. “I know a couple of them were straight, some of them were in the LGBT community.”

Lothe, Vaughn and Story said they sometimes get strange or even “nasty” looks from others while in public with their respective partners, but said they feel generally safe in Marshalltown.

Story said things are better than they used to be for people in the community, but there’s still plenty of work to be done.

“There are gay people in the media, on TV and movies, just out in the community,” she said. “They weren’t as much when I was growing up.”

Bullying, especially in middle school, plagued Lothe, who at that time was still female-presenting. He said his teachers didn’t do much to stop the behavior.

“They wouldn’t really listen to me, they’d listen to my dad though,” Lothe said.

Vaughn said violent acts against LGBT people, such as the Orlando nightclub shooting a year ago, are cause for serious concern.

“I get that people have different beliefs,” she said. “I definitely think the violence part needs to go; no matter what skin color you have or what gender you are, or who you are interested in, I think it is no one’s business and there should not be any violence because of it.”

She added it can be nerve-wracking to go to large LGBT events or places like gay clubs and bars in larger cities because of the potential for such an attack.

The three Marshalltownians said they’ve become more comfortable with themselves since coming out.

“For me, it’s the observation that we’re all human, we’re all equal, we’re all worthy of being treated well,” Story said of Pride Month. “I would say improvement is always happening.”

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com