There’s a perfectly logical reason the Delmarva Pride Center (DPC) scheduled its ribbon-cutting celebration on a weekday afternoon – Wednesday, Oct. 11. That date, not coincidentally, was National Coming Out Day. The ribbon-cutting and presentation of Governor Wes Moore’s proclamation took place at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (UUFE ) at Easton, where its Welcoming Congregation Rainbow flag flies for all to see as they drive by on Ocean Gateway.
Some might say it’s been a long time coming, but Delmarva Pride Center has been around – without a permanent center to call home for just two years. “Before that, we started just doing occasional socials in public spaces,” Kyle O’Donnell, chair of DPC, recalls. “When we decided to do regular monthly events, my thought was to call ourselves Talbot Pride. But when I met Tina at a porch social at Hummingbird Inn” – Tina Jones, Delmarva Pride’s secretary-treasurer, was involved then as now with transgender rights – “she said, ‘Think larger.’ ”
“When we saw that Caroline County had its own pride center,” O’Donnell said, “that inspired us to try to get it done here.” (O’Donnell lives in Talbot County and works in Kent as a district finance and budget officer.)
And now Delmarva Pride has gotten it done with its own space and private entryway into the UUFE at 7401 Ocean Gateway, just opposite the U.S. 50 highway from the Easton High School football stadium.
“In making this space available to Delmarva Pride,” said the Rev. Sue Browning, UUFE’s minister, “our congregation is living out our values to be an inclusive community which centers love in all we do. We’re beyond excited to support Delmarva Pride.” (Browning also serves as UU Chester River minister in Chestertown.)
In prepared remarks at the grand opening, UUFE board president Christina Drostin said, “This center stands as a haven to people persecuted all too often in our society. Personally, I celebrate this occasion not only as board president but also as a family physician, as a parent, and more than anything, as a human.”
Most of the center’s financial support comes from its annual two-day Pride Festival, which this year included a Pride Drag Show at the Avalon Theatre and a day-long street fair adjoining the Juneteenth celebration just outside the Academy Art Museum at Harrison and South streets. “That pretty much covers our yearly expenses,” O’Donnell says. But it is the 20-or-so sustaining members of Delmarva Pride, chipping $10-$20 or more a month, plus volunteers who contribute their time to keep things running – and now helping pay rent for the group’s new home.
Upcoming, there’s a wine-and-cheese social on Oct. 16 at Adkins Arboretum, but the first social event in the new space is “FriendsGiving,” – a food and family-friendly gathering for all ages, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 17. Other UU fellowship spaces, including kitchen facilities and a conference room ideal for buffets, are available upon adequate notice and no conflicts.
Besides the monthly socials, “our goal,” says O’Donnell, “is to have our center open for drop-in visits during office hours all week” (except Sundays when UUFE holds its services and children’s classes). Of course, any Delmarva Pride guest is welcome. Some are members of the fellowship.
To keep the center open six days a week will take volunteers and members to donate extra hours. “Our goal,” O’Donnell says, “is to have two adults present at certain times so working parents, for instance, can drop off their kids after school. LGBTQ+ people are parents, too. This will be a safe space, a lounge to hang out, do homework, watch TV, or play on X-Box.”
The center is working with the Talbot County Health Department to schedule mobile clinic walk-ins for screenings and even a listening ear for those with emotional issues.
As for future expansion, O’Donnell says, “We’re looking north on the Shore. Queen Anne’s or Kent counties have no pride centers yet.” Aside from neighboring Caroline’s center, “DOCO Pride in Dorchester County is just doing socials for now, and Salisbury Pride has an annual Pride Festival and a Rainbow Crosswalk. We want to serve as an umbrella platform to publicize events all over Delmarva.”
The governor’s proclamation was presented Wednesday just outside the new center by the Maryland Commission on LGBTQIA+ Affairs director, Jeremy Browning (no relation to Sue Browning or her husband Bill). Jeremy Browning also thanked Governor Moore for declaring Wednesday National Coming Out Day in Maryland. Coming out is one of the aims of most, if not all, pride groups. That’s why many of their social events are held in public or are open to the public. There is no shame in any letter of the LGBTQ et al. alphabet.
Delmarva Pride Center
7401 Ocean Gateway (U.S. 50), Easton; delmarvapridecenter.com
Steve Parks is a retired New York arts writer and editor now living in Easton.