Last month, MTV News traveled to Casper, WY for a story about Casper’s Pride Fest, the vitality and support for their PFLAG Community, and the community at the center of it all: Casper United Church of Christ, led by Senior Pastor Rev. Dee Lundberg.
It’s been almost 20 years since the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student from Casper who was murdered while attending college in Laramie. Wyoming will likely never be perceived as haven for LGBTQ persons, in the same way we perceive San Francisco or Hollywood or New York to be. But, that has only made the need for LGTBQ advocacy that much more critical. After Shepard’s death in October, 1998, the need for education, acceptance, and compassion was never more urgent—and the state’s progressive communities have since come together to work wonders.
As Rev. Lundberg points out in the article and its corresponding video, a key to the Pride Movement’s success centers around intergenerational cooperation. While PFLAG had been meeting in the church for years, the group needed a fresh energy to revitalize the community and strengthen the support for (and voice of) LQBTQ persons and their allies in Casper.
So, when activists like Chelsea Binder and Gage Williams began attending meetings and inviting their friends to join as well, it was exactly what the group needed. As Rev. Lundberg puts it, “They have peers, camaraderie. We used to just do a picnic, and that was boring for me. They’ve just made it more interesting, more relevant. You’ve got to let each generation run with it and make it their own.”
The fact that Casper has a thriving Pride Community is an unexpected and incredible circumstance, one that offers an abundance of inspiration and hope to those desperate to be loved and included, and to those working for justice. Advocates everywhere certainly have something to learn from a town like Casper: Can you imagine what we could accomplish if we decided to display the same level of bravery and unity?