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The Moberly Correctional Center (MCC) in Moberly, Missouri saw the first official gathering of its incarcerated LGBT community on July 3.

With only two weeks of preparation, Amy Barker, Lindsey Coffey and TC organized this historic event at the prison’s outer yard pavilion area.

“I absolutely feel great that this community came together respectfully and acted responsibly,” said Barker, a transgender woman. “Nobody left the pavilion hungry — gay, straight or transgender.” 

Food, which was donated by the prison’s LGBTQ community and supporters, included 270 hot dogs, 17 bags of chili and 14 bags of chips. Water coolers contained a blend of canteen drink mixes, while the party’s theme was B.Y.O.B — Bring Your Own Bowl. Organizers also gave 65 red, white and blue armbands to those who attended the event, which was held the day before Independence Day.

The prison’s custody staff were supportive and kept on the lookout for misconduct. Multiple non-LGBTQ offenders stopped by, hung out, asked questions and participated in the act of unity.

While the voices of the LGBTQ community have been concealed in the past, MCC has made great strides in its culture of equality, understanding and the freedom of self-expression. 

Organizers said the event was overall a success. Barker concluded that she “can’t wait for next year.”

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Shon Pernice is a contributing writer for PJP. He is a veteran and a Kansas City native who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a combat medic and came home with traumatic brain injury and PTSD. He has been published in Veterans Voices, The Beat Within and Military Magazine. He is a contributing author to the book, "Helping Ourselves By Helping Others: An Incarcerated Men's Survival Guide." Shon was incarcerated in Missouri.