Organizers brought LGBTQIA+ people and their supporters together at The Barn for the first episode of a new monthly event, Sisters in Sisters. From left to right: Stefanie Siebold, Teresa Laursen, and Mukti Silberfein. PHOTO BY photo by TL BROWN
Organizers brought LGBTQIA+ people and their supporters together at The Barn for the first episode of a new monthly event, Sisters in Sisters. From left to right: Stefanie Siebold, Teresa Laursen, and Mukti Silberfein. PHOTO BY photo by TL BROWN
Sisters in Sisters held its inaugural gathering on Thursday evening, celebrating Pride Month with a casual get-together including food, drinks, and music. Kids ran up and down the spine of The Barn’s outdoor garden while the band Oregon Fryer buoyed up the atmosphere, playing country-flavored rock and honky-tonk.

Co-organizers Stefanie Siebold and her wife, Teresa Laursen, moved to Sisters about five years ago.

“We have met some amazing individuals here in this community, fellow LGBTQIA+ individuals,” Siebold said.

The term LGBTQIA+ is generally meant to include a spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities, including but not limited to bisexual, trans, lesbian, and gay. Pride Month, or simply Pride, encompasses a variety of celebrations around the globe, famously including parades.

Historically, some Pride events began in commemoration of Stonewall, the June 1969 riots in New York City that became an important fulcrum in the movement for LGBTQIA+ rights.

“Everybody who loves and supports LGBTQIA+ individuals” was among the people that Siebold and Laursen hoped to gather Thursday. Mukti Silberfein, who formerly ran an event called Lez Bee Happy in Bend, helped organize the event.

“We wanted this to be a very inclusive event that was family-oriented, a safe space for individuals to come together, whether you’re somebody that identifies as LGBTQIA or somebody that loves them, or just a family member in general,” Siebold said. Sisters in Sisters plans to meet on the second Thursday of every month at The Barn.

Scouting out a venue wasn’t difficult.

“We come to The Barn at least once a week,” said Siebold.

Speaking with the general manager and then the owner, organizers found a good match.

“They want to have a family, welcoming feeling here at The Barn,” said Siebold, “and they were happy to host Sisters in Sisters.”

Pride events, once a big-city phenomenon, are becoming more common in smaller towns. This year’s local Pride events are listed in online calendars and social posts, including on the Out Central Oregon website. Most appear to occur in the city of Bend or involve nearby outdoor activities. Like Prideville Pridefest in Prineville, the Sisters in Sisters listing stands out.

Extremists have been known to interrupt the festivities. Next to Pride in the Park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho recently, police arrested 31 members of an anti-LGBTQIA+ white nationalist group for conspiring to riot, according to the Idaho Statesman. Those arrested or cited that day included at least two people from Oregon.

Siebold reported that she had not experienced pushback or discrimination since moving to Central Oregon.

“No, personally I have not, which is why I felt really safe putting on an event like this,” she said.

Attendee Adam Dickey, at age 37, grew up in a different Central Oregon to the one people see today. Born and raised in Bend, he moved back two years ago after spending time on the East Coast.

“Bend is and will always be home for me,” he said. “I needed to experience a lot of things in my life before I settled to come back here. I needed to get an education, I needed to learn about all kinds of peoples’ backgrounds.”

Dickey went to a religious college for nine years, “undergrad and graduate school, and learned to really respect all walks of life,” Dickey continued. “I do think that started here for me, in Central Oregon — regardless of how hard it was to grow up here, knowing I was not like my other peers, who were able to fit into the heterosexual mold.”

“We’re everywhere! We’re people! Just like everybody else,” exclaimed Siebold. “We all want to come to a place where everybody feels like they belong and they’re included, however you identify. I think if you just open yourself up and start having conversations with people, you’ll find that we’re everywhere.”

Said co-organizer Silberfein, “People love to get together.”

She gestured around the yard, buzzing with folks dining, drinking, chatting, and smiling: “It’s amazing how many people came out tonight. I’m so happy to see how many people are here.”

Organizers were unsure whether a public event for Pride has ever been held in the town of Sisters before.

“We’ve lived here five years,” said Siebold, “and I haven’t heard of anything before.” The Nugget has found no mentions of such an event so far. Unless a forgotten event is unearthed, Thursday’s Sisters in Sisters may have been a historic occasion: the first public Pride celebration in Sisters.

Anyone with information about previous Pride events in Sisters Country is invited to contact freelance writer T. Lee Brown via email to tiffany@plazm.com.