“We’re Making History Right Now”: Women from Winnemucca Organizing the Town’s First Pride Parade and Festival
Shawn Dixon, a resident of Winnemucca and owner of a local nail salon, said hosting a pride parade celebrating members of the LGBTQ community in rural Nevada was something she “dreamed of. for years and years, “but didn’t think she could accomplish.
But being diagnosed with cancer in March 2020 prompted her to seriously pursue her idea this year.
“I was sitting outside one night after getting sick from the chemo, and I was struck by the fact that it had to be done. We have to have this, and I can do it, and I asked a few friends, ”Dixon said in an interview with The Independent of Nevada.
Now, she is joined in her efforts by her daughter, Kat Dixon, preschool teacher Christina Basso and Misty Huff, who works at a local grocery store. Together, they plan to hold a parade and pride festival on July 16 and 17 in the city of less than 8,000 people. What started as a plan to get a small group together to walk down a street in central Winnemucca waving a rainbow flag representing the LGBTQ community turned into a weekend full of events with floats from parade, drag queen show and festival with vendors from local businesses as well as from as far away as Carson City and Lake Tahoe.
“The importance is to show everyone that it’s okay to be you and to be loved and to love whoever you want,” said Shawn Dixon.. “It’s right there – just love and acceptance and diversity and equality and all these things that I think are human rights.”
Shawn Dixon said she had been a lesbian since 1991 and had been married to his wife for almost 23 years, with whom she raised their daughter in Winnemucca. She is also the only LGBTQ member of the Winnemucca Pride planning group.
The group’s request to close Melarkey Street via Sixth Street for the parade is awaiting approval from city council members at a meeting on Tuesday. After receiving support from community members involved in the juvenile justice system and county health services, members of the Winnemucca Pride group have expressed optimism that their request will be approved.
Shawn Dixon said she was surprised by the outpouring of support the group received from members of the local community after pitching their idea on Facebook and at meetings open to the public at the library and at a local café. The group’s Facebook page has over 300 members and 11 people showed up at their last meeting.
Basso said the support and response highlighted the need for a greater sense of community for people who identify as LGBTQ in Winnemucca.
“What came out of our public meetings is just phenomenal,” Basso said. “Not just support from the community, but from individuals in the community expressing what they need and want. It’s a little emotional.
Shawn Dixon said the experience of coming together to create a Pride event and receiving support made her and the group grateful and humbled.
But she and other members of the group also highlighted the need for celebration and community support as a way to combat the invisibility many LGBTQ people feel.
“Having the community, the vendors and a real parade is kind of shouting, ‘This is happening,'” said Kat Dixon. “We want to let people know that they are being seen by other people. Visibility is probably half of the reason we do all of this.
Kat Dixon said she was bullied and teased throughout her time at school for growing up with two mothers, which made it even more important for her to support the community as a straight person. .
Basso added that the support the group has received from individuals and organizations in Elko, Reno and Las Vegas extends the visibility of LGBTQ people beyond the borders of Winnemucca.
“It’s important that we feel like we’re being seen and that we don’t have to hide all the time,” said Shawn Dixon. “Because that in itself pushes so many of us into darkness, and it’s hard to get out of it. ”
Huff said that while the group is spreading a message of love and acceptance, it also struggles with the effects of not being accepted in a community.
“We also fight depression, we also fight suicide, these are the things that lead to the fall not to be accepted,” Huff said. “And knowing that all is well really gives someone the freedom to live their life.”
Huff and Kat Dixon said it can be difficult to present themselves as an LGBTQ person in the predominantly conservative city, which Huff called “very red.”
“I can’t walk down the street and hold my wife’s hand,” Shawn Dixon said. “Because it scares me extremely. Lots of little things like that that most people take for granted. We kind of have to hide, and I’m trying to stop that. I don’t want to be afraid to walk down the street and put my hand on my wife’s shoulder or elbow.
Last year, Nevada residents voted in favor of a ballot overturning a provision in the state’s constitution that prohibited same-sex marriage, with 62 percent voting in favor and 37 percent against. However, the measure has not received the same support in Humboldt County, where Winnemucca is located, with 56% of voters opposed and 43% in favor.
Voters in Nevada chose to pass the amendment that limited state recognition of marriage between cisgender men and women through a different voting question in 2002. The measure garnered support from over 3 000 voters in Humboldt County, with just over 1000 voters opposed to it. . Statewide, 67 percent of voters supported the amendment and 32 percent opposed it.
Shawn Dixon noted that she has never experienced blatant or aggressive discrimination in Winnemucca because of her sexuality, but she remains cautious wherever she goes. She said a few clients stopped coming to her nail salon, called Get Nail’d, when they found out she was a lesbian.
Basso said that even though the group received little to no opposition in their efforts, it wouldn’t stop them, even if they did.
“I know that in the future there might be people who don’t agree with what we’re doing. However, that will not stop us. We will continue to stay positive, we will continue to spread love and light. And our message is clear: diversity is accepted and unique. And we are a safe space, ”she said.
Along with the goal of hosting a successful Pride event in their city, the group aims for future efforts to ensure that the support and community built through the event is sustainable and not fleeting.
When the group contacted the Winnemucca community regarding the parade and festival, they said community members had requested a center that could provide long-term support and resources to LGBTQ members.
“Obviously that won’t happen this year,” said Shawn Dixon. “But this is something that we discussed that could potentially be in the future to have a support center and a group here in Winnemucca for not only our children, but also for our adults. No matter how old we are on our trip, we all need a little extra help and love.
Reflecting on what they hope to accomplish in the next month, the group members said they feel like they are making history in their small town.
“I think we actually had a little moment yesterday, kind of a moving moment where we realized we’re making history right now,” said Shawn Dixon. “We have to add to the movement. We want to be part of it. ”
She said establishing a tradition in a place like Winnemucca can expand the possibilities for other small rural towns.
“If we can do it in a rural area like Winnemucca, Battle Mountain, Lovelock, I mean imagine what can happen in the world,” said Shawn Dixon.