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Standing with Pride: Event advocates support for LGBT community

June 18, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — After a gunman killed 49 people at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, last year, Jeff Gourley looked to his community to find what resources were available to West Hawaii’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Everyone’s looking around for some kind of support,” Gourley said, “and there was none.”

Gourley said in the days after the shooting, he was asked about contact information for a local chapter of PFLAG — a national advocacy group. There used to be a local chapter here, Gourley said, but it had been defunct for four or five years.

In October, PFLAG Kona/Big Island received its charter with Gourley as its founding president.

On Saturday, the group hosted Ha‘aheo a me Ku‘ikahi 2017, part of Pride Month events being held by advocacy groups around the globe.

While initially planned as a parade on Alii Drive and Kuakini Highway, the event was instead held as a “stationary parade” next to Queen Kaahumanu Highway Saturday morning, where about two dozen attendees waved signs and flags and rallied for support.

Among those in attendance were a handful of people from the state Department of Health.

Jasmine Staup, assistant supervisor for public health nursing for West Hawaii, said the department recognizes health disparities members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community face.

“And we want to support the LGBT community and improve those disparities,” she said.

In addition to its STD/HIV education and risk reduction services and public health nursing programs, the department is also partnering with the Hawaii Island HIV/AIDS Foundation to provide hepatitis-A and hepatitis-B immunizations to clients that might not get them otherwise.

“It is definitely outside of the mainstream Department of Health everyday work,” Staup said of the agency’s presence at the event. “But as a community member, this is our community. And we have to support them; there’s just no other way. You just have to.”

And while the event helps catch attention of passing drivers, Gourley said the group is already working to build a collection of resources to offer support and improve lives in West Hawaii. Already, the group holds monthly support meetings on the last Wednesday of each month.

This month’s meeting is from 6:15-8:15 p.m. on June 28 at 4Good Thrift on Kaiwi Street.

They are also working on having more meetings throughout the island and providing diversity education for schools and businesses.

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