The Ashland Beacon
Since gay marriage was legalized in the United States in 2013, the LGBTQIA+ community has made incredible strides in the world of equality and inclusivity. The community has had more than its fair share of discrimination, violence, and oppression as well. Today, we focus on the good Ashland Pride has done in our local community and celebrate their achievements since its founding in 2019.
“As a queer person who was fairly new to the area, I was desperate to find a community where I would be welcomed, accepted, and safe,” Ashland Pride President Holly Blevins said. “In the few years leading up to the foundation of Ashland Pride, I had not been able to find that here.”
Desire Layne, Vice President of Pride, shared similar sentiments.
“I had been dreaming of the day I would find my community, to see queer representation, to see positive and affirming change in the community,” she said.
Y’all Means All has been a national movement that envelops a welcoming, safe atmosphere for the LGBTQIA+ community. In Ashland, it serves as a beacon of safety and a place the community will be free of judgement and discrimination.
“We frequently get messages requesting recommendations of local businesses that are LGBTQIA+ friendly, especially those that are transgender-friendly and gender-affirming,” Blevins said.
The campaign is a way for businesses and organizations to publicly express to customers that they will not turn people away based on gender, sexual orientation, sex, religion, or disability. “It is a way for businesses to say: ‘you’re safe here,’” said Blevins.
Since the campaign began in June, more than 70 local businesses have expressed interest in taking the pledge, with 28 officially signing the pledge to be a safe space for all.
When a business takes the Y’all Means All pledge, the owner will sign a pledge stating the space is safe for all people, and will have a sticker placed in the front window of the business, or another visible area. The sticker is rainbow, the LGBTQIA+ flag colors, with local bridges surrounding the phrase “Y’all Means All”.
Blevins said they wanted to feature local bridges to include businesses from all over the tri-state, not only in Ashland.
In addition, businesses who take the pledge are entered into a mailing list where Pride shares tips on how to make your customers who may be part of a marginalized community feel more welcome. Those businesses are also prioritized for vendor events or other partnerships.
A “Safe Zone” training will also be rolled out soon where trainers will come to participating businesses to go over topics like pronouns, gender expression, creating safe environments for employees and customers, and more.
“This movement is bigger than our little city,” she said.
A few of the participating businesses include Bloodmoon Goddesses Spiritual and Apothecary Services, Anytime Fitness, Ashland Tourism, Fuji Japanese Steakhouse, Granny’s Novelties, and dozens more.
Blevins said the members of Pride were not expecting the huge influx of businesses who were interested.
“We were really worried this would be a harder fight,” she said. “The reaction from excited businesses owners and community members alike has been so amazing.”
Blevins mentioned some projects Pride has on the horizon, including giving out pronoun pins, wearable pieces so others know your preferred pronouns, for all employees for participating organizations. There will also be a section of the Pride website where all campaign participants are listed.
If a local business is interested in participating, they can visit the Ashland KY Pride Facebook page.