Sisters in Sisters celebrates one-year anniversary
Last updated 6/20/2023 at 11:40am
Sisters in Sisters celebrated its one-year anniversary with food and drinks at The Barn on Thursday, during Pride Month. The monthly meetup offers a casual gathering space for LGBTQIA+ folks and their allies the second Thursday of every month, from 4 to 7 p.m.
Its first event, held one year ago, attracted dozens of attendees, many of whom heard about it through Central Oregon-based Pride announcements and social media. It was the first known Pride event ever to occur in Sisters.
Gabriela "Gaby" Vidrio attended that first event. A resident of Sisters, she continues to enjoy the gatherings.
"The general feeling is all-inclusive," she said. "Nobody is really trying to impose their views. It's more like everybody's welcome - that's why it feels natural. It feels really good, it feels safe. It feels really comfortable!"
"We've not missed a month," said Megan Humpal, who helps with Sisters in Sisters' outreach.
"Even on snowy nights or rainy nights, or when it gets dark in Oregon at 4 p.m. in the winter - there's been a good turnout," Humpal said. She sends emails out for the mailing list under the name Miss Jane Hathaway.
"We get a lot of people from Bend and Redmond," she said, as well as plenty of Sisters locals. "It's kept a real energy going in the group."
The monthly gatherings brought Humpal and her wife "a friend group" when they were new to town.
"It's really nice. I go out, I run into other people from here. That happens in Sisters. It's a really fun small town," she enthused. She has extended family in Central Oregon as well, but "Sisters in Sisters has given us a real, good friend base."
Another participant was Andrea Wickberg, an author and parent who lives in Bend. Wickberg heard about Sisters in Sisters from cofounder Stefanie Seibold, who was leading a DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) workshop Wickberg was taking.
Now Wickberg enjoys bringing friends to The Barn every month.
"There's a lot of people who come here on a regular basis, and I've been making friends," she explained. "So I started asking around, do we have anything like this in Bend?"
Wickberg and her friends talked with Sisters in Sisters co-organizer Mukti Silberfein, who had started a gathering for lesbians in Bend a while back. "Lez Bee Happy isn't the official name" of the new gathering, said Wickberg, "but it works for now. We want to find something more inclusive. It's open to anybody - people who identify as being part of the community, friends, allies."
Under in the shade of The Barn's steep roof sat Donna, who preferred not to use her last name. She is a bluegrass jam player and teacher based in Portland, ranking herself as an "advanced amateur." She was in Sisters to house-sit for friends.
"It feels very hometown-y and welcoming, very pleasant," she said of the gathering and of the town. "I like the slower pace, the artistic community, the natural beauty of this place."
As a teenager growing up in Brooklyn, New York, she was present for the first-ever Pride event, as it would now be called. As a young child, Donna was "very not-gender-conforming" and first heard the word lesbian at age 13.
"That gave me a kind of framework for understanding who I was," she said.
Nowadays, Pride events throughout the country commemorate the Stonewall riots, demonstrations in which people fought for gay rights.
"Stonewall happened in June of 1969," she said. "I wasn't actually on the scene but I was aware of the scene. I read the news. By that time I knew there was a gay and lesbian community. I'd just started to make some of my first lesbian friends that summer."
Throughout the year that followed, Donna saw the beginning of the gay rights movement emerge. "A friend and I went down to the first parade and rally, one year after Stonewall. That first one in June of 1970 was historic." She had only been out as a lesbian to her mother for a few months before that very public event.
"I must've felt some kind of sense of: at least there is a bigger community," Donna mused. "I was not feeling like such an unusual person by myself anymore."
Over 50 years later, what did it feel like to join a small-town Pride gathering?
Donna looked around at the friendly LGBTQIA+ folks chit-chatting around The Barn, the rodeo-goers and kids eating pizza nearby.
"We've come a long way, baby."
If you're aware of previous Pride events that went unrecorded, please contact freelance reporter T. Lee Brown via email to [email protected].