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April 18, 2014

Couple seeks to help homosexual community in McAlester

McALESTER — A McAlester woman says she and her spouse are working to bring equality to McAlester.

After a recent visit to the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center in Tulsa, Debbie McDaniel said she was inspired to see what she could do to help the homosexual community in McAlester.

The Dennis R. Neill Equality Center provides counseling and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and their families and is sponsored Oklahomans for Equality, according okeq.org.

Because they are homosexual, Debbie McDaniel and her wife, Crystal, have faced inequality. Last year the couple had to travel to New York become legally wed.

Debbie McDaniel said she’s hoping to start a support group locally for the homosexual community.

“We would like to have equality meetings or some sort of support group and have counseling available for individuals and their families,” she said.

McDaniel said she’s familiar with the pain of coming out as homosexual.

She when she came out as a gay woman, she was banned by the Jehovah Witness church she belonged to and by family members, including her parents. She became very depressed.

“It mentally took its toll; they made it like I’m not worthy to live,” she said.

“I felt defective; I didn’t want to disappoint all these people. I was basically feeling sorry for myself and that basically accomplishes nothing,” McDaniel said.

“I decided to put a purpose to my life.”

Now she and her wife Crystal want to help others who might be going through the same thing, here in the McAlester area.

“We could have moved to Tulsa where it’s not as difficult to be who we are, but we felt we could make a change here in McAlester. We want to bring knowledge and awareness,” McDaniel said.

Her goal is get something started this year.

“We want to create a warm place to talk or to get help,” McDaniel said.

While visiting the Equality Center in Tulsa, Debbie McDaniel said she and others participated in the NOH8 Campaign.

The NOH8 Campaign — whose name can also be read as “no hate” — is a charitable organization whose mission is to promote marriage, gender and human equality through education, advocacy, social media and visual protest, according to noh8cmapaign.com.

As part of the NOH8 Campaign, McDaniel said she and others participated in a photographic silent protest in direct response to the passage of Proposition 8, a California ban on same sex marriage. The NOH8 photos feature subjects with duct tape over their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Proposition 8 and similar legislation around the world, with “NOH8” painted on one cheek in protest.

“We saw parents and grandparents coming in support of their gay children and grandchildren,” McDaniel said.

“I feel we can make our mark on this town,” McDaniel said.

“We can blaze a trail right here and we are excited.”

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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