Building a presence in Huntsville

Michelle Wulfson | The ItemHuntsville Texas Pride director of PR Madison Schackmuth stands in solidarity with the a Black Lives Matter courthouse protest. The candlelight vigil and protest was hosted by Huntsville Texas Pride in support of BLM during Pride Month.

Progress can be a difficult feat, especially in the south. 

For Huntsville Texas Pride director of PR Madison Schackmuth and president Nick Ransford, the city’s formal recognition of a Huntsville Pride Day was thought to be much further down the road. However, since its inception in 2018, Huntsville Texas Pride has been able to make great strides in creating support and unity for LGBTQIA+ members within the community.

“I was extremely surprised when I got the email from Mari Montgomery on city council that the proclamation was scheduled to be on the agenda,” Ransford said.

September 19 was officially recognized as Huntsville Texas Pride Day during a city council meeting earlier this month. This was the first attempt that the LGBTQIA+ organization has made towards an official proclamation for a city Pride Day.

“I’m proud that the city council and the mayor, especially, passed the proclamation, I felt that was a giant step forward for the city of Huntsville and Walker County as a whole,” Ransford said.

The Huntsville Texas Pride president recalls moving to Huntsville just eight years ago feeling lost and alone without the presence of a Pride group for him to seek support from within the city.

“When I first moved here, for the first three years I didn’t have any connections, I was always having to go to Houston for anything LGBT related. There were no groups here that I could find, it was a nightmare basically, I felt alone,” Ransford said.

“I hope (Huntsville Texas Pride Day) brings people together, I hope it shows teenagers or people that are struggling with their sexuality that there is a group that they can belong to,” Ransford said. He also hopes that in the future, Huntsville Texas Pride will be able to help with services including STD testing and counseling. Ransford also envisions opening a storefront for Huntsville Pride where members can have a safe space to hang out, meet new people or get information on services that they may need.

While major cities celebrate Pride Month in June, outlying areas typically celebrate individual Pride Days in the fall months so as to not compete with the large scale events of bigger cities and to focus on the local community while enjoying the cooler weather.

“We were planning and hoping to do a festival this year, but due to COVID-19 we decided to move to virtual for the safety for all of us and for the entire community as a whole,” Ransford said. “But next year, we do plan on hopefully having a festival or a parade, or, if I have it my way, both,” Ransford said.

Schackmuth adds that she would like to see rainbow flags lining the downtown square, continuing down Sam Houston Avenue to show the city’s solidarity in the week leading up to future Pride events.

“I would love for it to normalize queer presence in Huntsville … for people who are closeted and not able to be out yet, I hope that it could be something that they could look to and find warmth and kindness, even if they’re not able or wanting to be out yet,” Schackmuth said.

In lieu of a festival this year, a virtual Pride Day will feature entertainers such as bands and drag queens, videos from World Pride and Pride Houston welcoming them to the Pride community and congratulating them on their inaugural Pride Festival. Local organizations and businesses have also chosen to sponsor the event.