“During June, Americans and people around the world observe Pride. Today, as we mourn the 49 people who were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando three years ago, I am mindful that Pride is both a celebration and a testament to sorrow and struggle that has not yet ended. Especially this month, I offer special thanks to God for the strength of the LGBTQ community and for all that you share with your spouses, partners and children, with your faith communities, and indeed with our entire nation.”
— The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church
It started over slices of pie.
In 2017, three friends got together to organize the Wenatchee Valley’s first-ever Pride Festival, a way to connect the local LGBTQ community and advocate for gay rights. They met at Shari’s, ate pie, and made plans. The Cascade Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in East Wenatchee donated venue space. Somebody ran to Costco for food. A few people showed up with orange vests to help park cars. About 120 people attended. Not bad for the first year.
The event grew. More than 1,300 people turned out for last year’s Pride Festival at Pybus Public Market.
Tomorrow, the Wenatchee Pride Festival returns for its third year, this time at Lincoln Park — an even bigger space that can accommodate what organizers expect to be at least 2,000 attendees. Confluence Health has signed on as the event’s main sponsor.
Local brewery 509 Bierwerks will be pouring in the beer garden. Burch Mountain BBQ will keep hungry guests fed. There will be live music and yard games and “free mom and dad hugs” for anyone who could use one of those. It’s a family-friendly event, with face painting, a bouncy house, coloring stations and a drag queen story time.
If you’re not gay but are thinking of attending the festival to show your support for the LGBTQ community, one of the founders of Wenatchee Pride, Jillian Danley, suggests keeping a few things in mind:
1. As a straight person, you belong and are absolutely welcome at Pride, and your presence at the event is more important than you know. “Sometimes just showing up is the simplest, yet most powerful thing you can do,” Jillian said.
There will be young gay men and women attending the festival. Imagine them spotting familiar faces — teachers, police officers, their friends’ parents — and realizing that they are not alone in Wenatchee. That this is a safe place. “That could save their life,” Jillian said.
(At the same time, remember that Pride isn’t really about you. It’s about standing in solidarity with your LGBTQ friends.)
2. Take some time to learn about the history of the gay rights movement and the origins of Pride. While it’s a time of celebration, Pride is deeply rooted in resistance and oppression, “a testament to sorrow and struggle that has not yet ended,” as Bishop Michael Curry so eloquently noted this week. And this year’s Pride festivities mark 50 years since the Stonewall uprising, a watershed moment in the gay rights movement. If you need a refresher on history or terminology, there’s a helpful glossary on the Wenatchee Pride website, under the Resources tab.
3. Come as a supporter, not a spectator. As Jillian put it: “You are not taking your kids to the petting zoo.” Don’t show up tomorrow expecting to be entertained by gay people in their natural habitat. Yes, you’ll likely see some pretty fabulous, over-the-top outfits. And there will be glitter. Lots of glitter. But it turns out gay people are not actually here for our amusement. So don’t gawk, and put the camera down, unless you get permission to snap a picture of someone’s snazzy ensemble.
4. Keep showing up. Pride is fun, but to be a true ally, support your LGBTQ brothers and sisters year-round. Advocate for equality at work and in your private life. Campaign against homophobic candidates. If you attend a church, ask your church leadership where they stand on full inclusion of gay people. (They may be hip, modern churches with rock bands and jeans-clad pastors and savvy social media managers. They may even allow openly gay people to attend Sunday services. But do they ordain them? Officiate their weddings? Ship them off for the odious, psychologically damaging practice of “conversion therapy”? Ask, and then ask again until you get a clear answer. You’ll find that, at least in this town and a bit counterintuitively, it’s the older, more staid, mainline churches that are the most inclusive.)
My two young daughters are excited to go to the festival tomorrow. They love a good bouncy house, and they were delighted by last year’s festival — gleefully collecting rainbow stickers and twirling to the music.
I think often about how they must see the world, and about what a different sort of world they are growing up in. It’s a more tolerant world in a lot of ways, due in large part to the social and cultural movements of the last 60 years, including the fight for gay rights. While my husband and I are flailing through parenthood with no actual clue what we are doing most days, we are pretty certain about this: Our children will never doubt for one moment — no matter who they marry or how they dress — that they are profoundly loved and accepted, just the way they are. No shame. No hiding.
That feels like progress, and worthy of celebration.
Kelli Scott’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org