Written by OhHey.Gay (Original Link: https://www.ohhey.gay/blog/northidahopridealliance?fbclid=IwAR3IEaw5Nvk8NpJm6VYoSQtc3eNe-qgyUU_P2E6N4DVOR77RuRY0t8l-p6s )
How would you describe your organization’s mission?
The North Idaho Pride Alliance (NIPA) is a nonprofit organization of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender,Queer/Questioning, Intersex and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) people, allies and community groups working together to create a more inclusive North Idaho through Networking, Educating and Advocating.
Governed by a 15-member volunteer Board of Directors and a part-time Executive Director, NIPA creates strong connections and alliances through collaboration between community organizations, community education, and our programming.
Tell us about how that mission is brought to life through your work.
We’re a “365 organization”, we’re active all throughout the year, not just for pride month. Throughout the year we’re working closely with business leaders, community partners and other nonprofit organizations in both Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington State to form relationships that we can use to refer LGBTQIA+ Idahoans to.
Besides planning social and networking events for LGBTQIA+ people and our allies, such as Drag Bingos, Pride Happy Hours, and fundraising events, we’re also working to build a network of resources in our community. If an LGBTQIA+ person needs a hairstylist or health professional who will affirm their gender identity or is just a safe person, we have that information. We vet every resource on our list before we refer. The safety of LGBTQIA+ Idahoans is our top priority.
Our organization also does a lot of outreach and advocacy work in our community. In the past, we’ve partnered and hosted training events for our community with the ACLU of Idaho, Western States Center, and the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, to name a few.
What would happen if your organization suddenly did not exist?
If our organization didn’t exist, I don’t think LGBTQIA+ people in North Idaho would be safe at all. Our organization deals with a lot of issues throughout the year, from rogue local and state politicians looking for an easy “election win” to hateful religious organizations spreading misinformation or looking to galvanize the pulpit. Last year, our organization’s pride festival, Pride in the Park, was targeted by the Patriot Front, an extremist white nationalist group.
Luckily, we were able to persevere and continue our mission. Through funding, support, and volunteers, our organization also uplifts smaller pride organizations in our region, like Sandpoint Pride, Palouse Pride and Silver Valley Pride. I’m confident that if our organization disappeared that these groups would still eventually exist and LGBTQIA+ people would gather – though it would definitely be much more challenging.
What can people do to get involved and help make sure that never happens?
Like any nonprofit, volunteering and fundraising. Both of those aspects are so important to the continuance of what we do. We can’t do the work we do without our amazing and passionate volunteers. They are the backbone of our organization and help make sure that we can put on some truly awesome events throughout the year. If volunteering isn’t possible, we encourage people to either donate or help us fundraise. Share our fundraisers. Help us talk with organizations and businesses to secure sponsorships. Help us submit grants. The more help we can get for our small nonprofit organization, the easier it’ll be to help create a positive change in North Idaho. We can’t do it alone!
Why does LGBTQ+ visibility matter to you?
LGBTQIA+ visibility is so important, especially in North Idaho. We’re a marginalized community. We’re fighting daily to ensure that we can exist in ALL areas of the United States, not just the blue states. Idaho is a very conservative state, and North Idaho has an interesting definition of “conservative”, so it is so vital for us to continue to persist in North Idaho and help shine a positive light on the LGBTQIA+ community.
NIPA works every day to make sure that we place ourselves where people least expect us. We’ve recently joined our local Chamber of Commerce – which has been a great spot for us to broadcast our message of inclusion and equality. It’s been great and they’ve been so welcoming, though we still get some pushback from individuals in our community.
In your own words, what does “LGBTQ+ safety and support” mean specifically?
NIPA envisions a safe and inclusive community where LGBTQIA+ individuals belong, can connect and are empowered to thrive in North Idaho. “LGBTQ+ safety and support” means just that. We want ALL people to be safe, but we want LGBTQIA+ people to feel safe and have the critical support systems from family, friends, and the community in place. We want LGBTQIA+ people to thrive wherever they decide to live.
Who are some of your LGBTQ+ heroes?
Harvey Milk, RuPaul, and Marsha P. Johnson are iconic and without their work, our community wouldn’t be where it is today. Another person that comes to mind, though she isn’t LGBTQIA+, is Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She’s championed LGBTQIA+ rights in Congress for years without wavering and that is commendable.
If you could give LGBTQ+ youth one message, what would it be?
Hang in there! Life might be super tough right now, but once you find your people everything will be so much better. We encourage you to get involved in something you’re passionate about, and find what “fills your cup”. Join a local LGBTQIA+ organization and get involved in your community.
Tell us about a time when you felt like the work you do at your organization really mattered or made a difference for the communities you serve.
Last year when our annual pride festival was targeted by the Patriot Front, we were shaken. We were tired, scared of what could have happened and we were dealing with a barrage of hateful messages on social media, email and voicemail. Our greater community was polarized and angry because of a small group of people and some local bad actors. Throughout that ordeal, we persisted and really got to work focusing on our LGBTQIA+ community and our mission. Through that work and time, our community has completely swung back to the other side, welcoming and celebrating LGBTQIA+ people. This year’s Pride in the Park was another great success! Rivaling the success of last year and being one of our largest festivals to date. We’ve built more relationships with groups and connections with the business community which help our local LGBTQIA+ groups to feel seen and safe. We were proud to see our community reject the extremist hate that tried to take hold. Our organization has also been through a dynamic change as we’ve enhanced our mission and programming.
Anything else you would like to share with the .gay audience?
Get involved in your community. Vote. Volunteer for LGBTQIA+ nonprofits and organizations. Help support them through a donation or help fundraise. LGBTQIA+ folks are constantly being targeted by well-organized hate groups within your community and online. Take a stand and support your friends, families, children, co-workers and colleagues. The more love we can put into the world, the more welcoming the world will be.
Thank you OhHey.Gay for featuring us on your website and allowing us to share our organization's story and vision for the future!