LGBT in Little Dixie part two: ‘Most bigots are cowards’
(Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series examining LGBT in Little Dixie, a region in southeastern Oklahoma. Part one can be found here.)
McALESTER, Okla. — Despite Fat Mary’s success as a gay-friendly drag-show venue, being gay in southeastern Oklahoma isn’t easy, especially if your name isn’t Paul Prichard, one of Fat Mary’s co-owners. And especially if your church and family are against you.
Although Prichard will tell you he has been subjected to nasty comments by those in the community unhappy with a gay bar existing in McAlester, he agrees his experience doesn’t match the ordeal that local commercial-property manager and gay-rights advocate Debbie McDaniel experienced growing up lesbian in southeastern Oklahoma under the watchful eye of the Jehovah’s Witness church.
‘Disfellowshipped’ in the wake of abuse
As a child, McDaniel was sexually abused by a Jehovah’s Witness elder in a McAlester church. Some 30 years later, when she was telling McAlester police about church and family members harassing her and her 15-year-old daughter, Marley, who announced she too was lesbian, McDaniel mentioned to police that the same church had ignored her molestation as a child.
“The detective taking notes said, ‘Molested? What? I think we’re going to have to get out some more paper,’” McDaniel said.
The police investigation led to the Pittsburg County district attorney filing felony lewd molestation charges against a 76-year-old McAlester man. Other victims had come forward. The man was also charged with molesting another then-pre-teen girl and a 5-year-old boy. But the district court judge dismissed all charges because nearly 30 years had passed.