OLEAN, NY. -- While people across the United States recognize June as LGBTQ Pride Month, the Olean Public Library participated with a celebration of its own. On June 12, members of the Greater Olean community gathered in the library’s art gallery to learn about the history of Pride month, as well as resources offered by the Pride Center of Western New York.
The Pride Center of WNY, a non-profit organization located in Buffalo, provides health and wellness services to Western New York’s LGBTQ community.
Steve Jagord, LGBTQ field educator at the Pride Center, led the presentation on the center’s services.
“The goal of the Pride Center is to make Western New York a better place for LGBTQ people to work, live and raise a family,” Jagord said. “We accomplish that through the different programs and services that we provide.”
One of the services offered, the Silver Pride Project, gives elderly members of the LGBTQ community a place to raise awareness for, and fight against, social isolation.
“For the aging LGBTQ community, we see that isolation is a very significant health issue,” Jagord said. “Isolation is an issue for elderly people in general, but when you look at the LGBT demographic, you see that it is amplified.“
The Silver Pride Project regularly hosts coffee hours, game days and Lunch and Learn programs.
The Pride Center is also responsible for organizing the Buffalo Pride Parade and Festival each year. According to Jagord, this year’s Buffalo Pride event on June 4 set a personal record for its number of attendees.
“We had another record turnout or more than 15,000 people,” Jagord said. “This was the second year in a row that we had zero protesters on the parade route.”
Jagord said the biggest program the Pride Center offers is its Trans Health Initiative. The program works with healthcare providers and mental health counselors to make sure members of Western New York’s transgender community have access to trans-affirmative health services.
“If you are a member of the transgender community, our transgender wellness specialists are here to set you up with primary care physicians, mental health counselors, hormonal therapy specialists and anybody you need to make a successful and healthy transition,” Jagord said.
Other health services offered include HIV and STI testing, available five days a week at the center’s 200 S. Elmwood Ave. location.
Jennifer Stickles, head of youth and adult programs at the Olean Public Library, organized the Pride Night event. According to Stickles, it was the first time the library has celebrated Pride Month.
“This is our first time recognizing Pride Month,” Stickles said. “I think it was part of the Rainbow Alliance seeing the need in the community. Unless you wanted to go to a drag show, there really was not much else happening in Olean to honor Pride Month.”
Stickles started the Rainbow Alliance, the library’s LGBTQ+ youth support group, in February.
“I talked with my Rainbow kids, and they all wanted something to recognize the month,” Stickles said. “I thought doing this would be not only an opportunity to bring the Pride Center here to educate the community, but also to provide a meet-and-greet space.”
According to Stickles, the Rainbow Alliance has remained active since its first meeting.
"We usually get a dozen or so teens each time, sometimes a little more," she said. "Teens have had a chance to make new friends they haven’t connected with before. We have had people from other counties that bring their kids over.”
The Rainbow Alliance is open to teens ages 13 to 18. Information about the services offered by the Pride Center of WNY and how to access them can be found on its website.