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Ottumwa native responds to negative backlash after White Sox performance

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 8:33 PM CDT
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OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - An Ottumwa native has received backlash online following their Pride Night performance due to the choice of attire. The Pride Night event, hosted by the Chicago White Sox is an event intended to give the LGBTQIA+ community visibility and allows every member to feel welcome in those spaces. Performing at the most recent event in late September was an Ottumwa native by the name of Sawyer Smith who goes by the pronouns They/Them/Theirs.

Smith performed the National Anthem on live television on September 28. Family, friends, and locals shared the video on Facebook of what they believed to be a proud moment. However, others shared that smith’s video isn’t something to be proud of. Regardless of the negative feedback received from those back home. Smith says Ottumwa hasn’t left a bad taste in their mouth. “I’m very proud to come from Ottumwa and the people of Ottumwa are good people. just like everywhere else there are a few bad apples in the bunch who can’t seem to get with the program. I’ve always known that if someone has a problem with me for who I am, that’s not my problem that’s theirs,” they share.

Identifying as queer, they said growing up in Ottumwa there weren’t any organizations in the community for LGBTQIA+ members to freely express themselves. Because of this, Smith believes that is what led them and other queer individuals to the arts. “I started doing theatre in Ottumwa actually when I was really little. It started with doing middle school plays and the O.C.C.P., the Ottumwa Community Children’s Plays, and in high school the American Gothic Performing Arts Festival.”

From there Smith attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts in 2006 at Roosevelt University studying musical theatre and graduated in 2011. “I’ve been working professionally here in Chicago and around the world since,” Smith says.

Smith goes on to give advice to those who are afraid to be themselves in fear of bullies by saying “Just keep doing you.”“You know when you’re in a little town, sometimes it’s hard for people to see how fabulous you are because they aren’t used to seeing such fabulousness. So the more you shine brightly the more everyone else gets to shine with you.”

They say although there is a great divide in the world right now, Ottumwa has the potential to embrace the diversity of all sorts not just in the LGBTQIA+ community. They urge city leaders and council members to expand who it is they are listening to.

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