NORMAN, Oklahoma - Sawyer Stevenson gripped their poster, touched the trans flag around their shoulders, and started walking in the first Norman Pride Parade as an out transgender person.

The OU student smiled at the crowd as others from the Gender + Equality Center carried its banner.

Behind Stevenson, more friends’ arms ached from hoisting a pride flag the size of a city block.  

“Walking in the Parade is great because I can show remembrance for all the trans people,” the junior anthropology major said. They motioned to a poster with over 65 names Stevenson said were recorded as murdered since 2016.

Some OU students, faculty and staff, and alumni walked in Norman’s first Pride Parade August 26.

“There is a great community at OU for everyone who is a part of the LGBT community,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson said OU has done a lot to be inclusive, but there is still progress to be done. 

The OU Phi Alpha Honors society, an OU School of Social Work Club, drove in the parade.

Phi Alpha Vice President Dedrick Perkins said he was surprised about the amount of support seen at the parade.

“Norman seems like a very conservative town, but even with the University here it seems very conservative, so it was nice to see some forward thinking people here,” said Perkins.

Perkins said he’s looking forward to 2019 and that the school of social work will come back with a float next year.

Fifth-year philosophy major Sydne Gray walked in support of Native and LGBTQ issues. She also said she walked with candidate for Oklahoma Corporation Commission Ashley McCray.

“It’s important to have festivals like these with the city’s slogan ‘Building an inclusive community,’” said Gray.

Gray said the parade was a great example of showing solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

“It’s an important gesture to come here, get free hugs and just enjoy,” said junior biology pre-med Gautham Reddy.

Reddy came to Pride with his boyfriend, senior international studies, french, and arabic major Britt Leake.

“To see all these people here, it really reminds us that there are other people in our same situations and are like us,” said Leake.

Reddy and Leake said they wanted to share love is love. 

For more information about Norman Pride, visit https://www.facebook.com/normanpridelgbt.

To learn more about the Gender + Equality Center at OU, visit http://www.ou.edu/gec.

All photos, courtesy of William Blessing