BEA alum wins state-wide LGBTQ advocacy award
Cody Bauer has been making great strides in his conservative community of Orange City, Iowa. Bauer was a 2004 BEA graduate who moved to Frost in the summer of 1999 with his mother, Roberta Spangenberg, and younger brother, Aaron Bauer, a 2008 graduate of Blue Earth Area.
Bauer left Frost after graduating and went to Northwestern College, a Christian liberal arts school in Orange City, Iowa, where he obtained a degree in theatre. Then, Bauer moved to Chicago for several years, and after meeting his spouse, decided to take root back in Orange City, which has a population of approximately 6,000.
During the day, Bauer is a trainer at Staples in Orange City and also runs an independent training firm called Coach712, which mainly helps with on-boarding and management training in retail and food service industries.
But it’s how Bauer chooses to use his free time that has created an impact in his new community. Bauer is an organizer of an LGBTQ pride event in Orange City and, for many reasons, is a big deal to have in his small town. He and his community organization were recently presented with a state-wide advocacy award known as the Donna Red Wing Advocate of the Year Award presented by OneIowa, a statewide LGBTQ+ organization.
The award presented to Pride Orange City, or “OC Pride,” was given to the six organizers of the group including Bauer and his committee teammates David Klennert, Michael Goll, Abby Bliss, Allie Macedo, and Steve Mahr. The six team members organize and produce a three-day Pride event in Northwest Iowa, which takes place during the third weekend in October.
The mission centered around this community-driven event is to educate about LGBTQ+ culture and history, while simultaneously uplifting and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community to create a safe, positive environment for everyone.
“This work is so important because there are young people here who are told publicly by their churches, families, educators and friends that because they are different, they don’t belong,” says Bauer. “With all of those voices speaking against you, we are able to stand in the gap and take those comments and hold a safe place for all people to call theirs, to carve out a space in this community for anyone and everyone to belong. We’ve been told through our work that rural communities are the final frontier of LGBTQ equality and I personally believe that to be true. And we are seeing progress.”
Bauer says receiving the award from OneIowa put into sharp relief for the group how impactful the event has been in its two short years, for not only local community members, but for people all over the country who don’t have a place they feel safe.
“We would love to have some folks from the Blue Earth area join us in October,” says Bauer. “We are only a little over two hours away.”
From information booths and lots of delicious food to coffee house acoustic folk jam sessions and drag show performances, the small group in a small town has gone against the odds to hold space for people of all genders and to have a safe space in their community.
OC Pride was the first festival of its kind in Orange City, traditionally a Dutch Reformed community.
Bauer and Mahr are both straight married men who consider themselves LGBTQ allies, while other members of the group identify in the LGBTQ community. The organizers point out that Orange City has events that recognize the city’s historic Dutch culture and growing Hispanic population, so why not add LGBTQ culture to the mix as well?
“There are not a lot of spaces for queer kids and we want to be an event that says we love you, we don’t just tollerate you, we accept you, we want you here and we think who you are is beautiful. If that helps one kid or if that helps 50 kids, it’s a message that has to continue to get out regardless of who is on board with us,” says Bahr, a member of the OCPride committee.
When Bauer recollects his time at BEA and in the community, he says the area of Blue Earth and Faribault County do have quite a ways to go as far as acceptance.
“Communities like yours and mine aren’t out to hurt people, they genuinely want what is best for everyone. However, there are often people in positions of power who don’t realize the effect of their words and actions can have on marginalized people inside our own communities,” says Bauer. “The majority of the people here in our area are very kind, and they believe that they are very supportive of everyone, but all of us, myself included, can do better to make our communities more comfortable and more accessible to everyone. This work needs to be done in many small communities across the country, and it will literally save lives.”