Pride weekend is upon us, which means that the usual Capitol Hill fare (Robyn, rainbows, and sweaty dance parties at The Cuff) is about to be laid on extra thick. With marriage equality under our belts and yesterday’s victory for transgender healthcare access, there is certainly much to be proud of.
This was the year Seattle elected a gay mayor, and had twenty year olds at frat parties across the country lip synching to a Macklemore song about gay people loving on each other… so there was that, too.
For me, it was the year that I came out to the last handful of friends of family who didn’t know I was queer.
Pride is about celebrating what has historically been made to feel unwelcome, un-pretty, or unhealthy — rejecting negative messages sent for decades through everything from outright violence and anti-LGBTQ legislation to the subtle ignorings of preferred-gender pronouns.
For queers and allies alike, it is about celebrating the non-conforming, rabble-rousing, colorful corners of ourselves, no matter who you love.
While we celebrate how far we’ve come, we should remember that the fight for LGBTQ equality does not start or end in white America.
Before same-sex marriage was passed in Washington state, it had already been legalized in 17 countries around the globe. Gender fluidity is widely accepted in many countries throughout Asian and API communities, and in their diasporas.
Communities across Seattle are defining family in ways we couldn’t even dream possible, and making voices heard and faces seen. But the reality of these communities isn’t the same as that of mainstream gay Seattle, sponsored this year by T-Mobile and Amazon.
Seventy percent of anti-LGBTQ murders in the U.S. are committed against people of color, including one just last week in Los Angeles. These communities are the same ones who bear the brunt of poverty, and racism. While figures like Macklemore and Ellen DeGeneres persist as symbols of gay American culture, Seattle’s LGBTQ community actually reflects a huge diversity of perspectives and ethnicities.
These communities prioritize healthcare and education over marriage rights, according to DeAnn Alcantara-Thompson, Community Engagement Program Coordinator at the Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse.
The Pride Parade this year will honor activists like Star Trek actor and author George Takei, and Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu. Seattle hosts robust Black Pride, Pride Asia and Trans* Pride festivals, marches, and parades,while year-round, organizations like Zenyu, Trikone NW, and the QPOC Liberation Project carve out spaces that reflect the experience and heritage of queer people of color.
Kia Pierce, a bisexual burlesque performer says she was tired of going out in a queer nightlife that she describes as “very white” and “male oriented” — so she created her own dance parties for queer people of color three years ago.
“We would have to go to the straight clubs to get the good music — but then you would have some negative experiences,” she says, referencing unwelcome comments or stares.
She eventually created ‘Fire Nights’, a regular dance night for the QPOC (Queer People of Color) community to go out in a place where they could listen to hip hop and reggae while “still feeling comfortable wearing what you want to wear, loving who you want to love.”
Fire Nights will host a Pride party tomorrow night at Dahlak Eritrean restaurant off Rainier Ave.
Pierce’s event production company, Briq House Entertainment, will also host a burlesque night featuring all queer and trans people of color. In a performance world dominated by “skinny white women,” she asserts that “the point is to have different body types — diversity in beauty”.
Seattle has put a concerted effort into raising trans* visibility at this year’s Pride, which comes just weeks after the suicide of a local young trans* Korean-American youth, Sun Kim.
In addition to the first trans woman of color performing burlesque, The Stranger has edited an issue dedicated to trans rights, and Trans* Pride will feature two black speakers known for their tackling of racism, the prison industrial complex, and poverty. The community will gather to remember Kim, during the same celebration.
Even as queer culture takes its place in the mainstream, trans* and gender-non conforming people have suffered disproportionate violence in the U.S.. Celebrities like Laverne Cox of Orange is The New Black, and activists like CeCe Macdonald, who was imprisoned for the murder of her attacker in a trans-phobic and racist hate crime, have helped to bring trans* issues to the forefront.
But on the spectrum of gender fluidity, what is considered radically abnormal in western culture is actually widely visible and accepted in other parts of the world. Fa’afines, a third gender in Samoa and Kathoeys, highly visible transgendered or feminine presenting people in Thailand, are widely accepted.
Seattle Globalist film ‘The Cost of Gender’ chronicles local transgendered people who choose to undergo sex reassignment surgery in Thailand, where the general social and financial climate towards the procedure is more favorable.
Organizations like Zenyu approach QPOC identity by weaving in different spiritual and nature-based traditions, which are mostly absent from a mainstream gay culture influenced by hipster aesthetics and committed to ironic secularism.
The only intersectional group of its kind nationwide, Zenyu offers regular meditation sessions, outdoor retreats, and a personal ethnic heritage project for queer people of color and their allies. Zenyu will be leading a hike on Saturday for people of color who want to dodge the Capitol Hill Pride scene.
The goal of these efforts, of course, is not to segregate ourselves more than structural inequality and poor urban planning already has. And according to Alcantara-Thompson, movement-building doesn’t advance itself by exclusively segregating into groups, though she’s hopeful about the upward swing in a more diverse representation of the LGBTQ leadership in Seattle.
“Pride is one of the few times when I actually get to see the diversity of the queer community,” added Pierce.
It’s simply about making room at the table.
“We want to be visible, and don’t want to have to work to make that happen all the time… When you put people of color on the stage, their people come out.” she said.
“Put us on the goddamn stage!”
I’ll see you there.
A sampling of QPOC events for Pride weekend and beyond:
(Pride Asia occurred June 21- 22)
Friday, June 27:
TRANS* Pride 6-10 pm at Cal Anderson Park
6 pm march, lineup at Howell & Broadway
7 pm memorial for Sun Kim
8 pm featured speaker: Kai M. Green
8:40 keynote speaker: CeCe Macdonald
Fire Nights PRIDE 10 pm at Dahlak Eritrean Cuisine, Beacon Hill
Lick! 10 pm at Chop Suey, Capitol Hill
Saturday, June 28:
Zenyu Hike for People of Color at capacity, visit website for details on future events
Seattle Dyke March 5 – 9 pm, Seattle Central College Plaza/Cal Anderson Park
5 pm rally, Broadway & Pine
7 pm march
8 pm celebration in Cal Anderson Park
Chocolate Kisses 10 pm, Royal Esquire Club, Columbia City
Sunday, June 29:
Pride Parade 11 am, 4th & Union
Suga Shaq PRIDE Edition: Burlesque Revue 7 pm, Can Can Kitchen & Cabaret, Downtown
Emerald City Black Pride Mixer, 3pm, The Garage, Capitol Hill
Emerald City Black Pride BBQ, 1 pm, Alvin Larkins Park, Madrona
Zenyu Meditation and Sound Healing for People of Color 7pm, Beacon Hill (every 2nd Monday of the month)
Zenyu Meditation and Sound Healing for People of Color and White Allies 7pm, Beacon Hill (every 4th Monday of the month)
Editor’s note: The asterisk in Trans* Pride is meant to indicate inclusiveness for folks who are transgender, gender non-conforming, and other gender identities. Learn more here!