In October, three leaders of my statewide advisory team organized our first-ever community gathering in Miles City, Montana—a sleepy town with approximately 8,410 people. Located 144 miles northeast of Billings, Miles City sits in the midst of our rural state.
To give you a sense of how remote the community is, if you or your family needed to access LGBTQ-specific resources or services, you would have to travel all the way to Billings—which is approximately a two and a half hour car ride. Miles City also doesn’t have an active and connected LGBTQ community, making the sense of isolation even greater. It is because of these challenges that building community there is so important—especially since local residents are so eager to come together and take action.
The strong turn out and diverse crowd were impressive, and included a range of local residents from students, to local members of the business community, as well teachers and families with connections to the LGBTQ community. The showing at the event highlighted how eager everyone was to come together and to focus on strengthening their community.
The group was incredibly engaged throughout the evening, and there was excitement about moving forward with action-oriented activities such as:
- Creating a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at one of the schools;
- Helping pass an anti-bullying policy that provides protections for students based on their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression;
- Taking citywide action to address growing concerns facing Miles City LGBTQ residents.
We appreciated the warm and embracing welcome that Miles City gave us, and we look forward to partnering with the local community to increase the resources available there to LGBTQ individuals and families.
Thank you, Miles City. Until next time!
Kim Leighton is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Montana. Email Kim.