Saturday night protest march, Sunday downtown parade and freedom rally, throw in a music fest, a film festival, some educational programs, and Seattle Pride celebrations, set for Jun 24-25, have all the makings of being bigger, more ubiquitous, more diverse-maybe even better.
But in the days and weeks leading up to the city’s over 30-year-old gender and sexuality bending festival, there have been a few hiccups, beginning with the decision of Seattle Out and Proud, traditionally the principal organizers of Seattle Pride, to take events out of their stomping grounds in the Capitol Hill/Broadway/Volunteer Park area, moving them downtown and in and around the Seattle Center.
The reasons? Logistics, crowd size, waste disposal, traffic and parking problems, and the opportunity to stage indoor events, says Seattle Out and Proud spokesperson Lauri Hennessey.
“The festival has far outgrown Volunteer Park. There’s still a couple things going on, on the Hill, but the majority by far will take place at the Seattle Center, almost all. While there were concerns at first, a vast majority are behind the move to Seattle Center,” claims Hennessey who says she understands the emotional pull of keeping tradition, but notes “the gay community is not just Hill-focused or Broadway-focused anymore….There are pockets all over the city, and everybody is welcome to Seattle Pride.”
For its part, the Seattle LGBT Community Center has decided to keep some Pride, so to speak, in the Capitol Hill area, citing complaints from some constituencies within the LGBT community that they were left out of the loop in the decision to move Pride downtown, and wanted to celebrate on the Hill, according to the centre’s executive director Shannon Thomas. She says queer youth, trans and LGBT elder groups, among others, approached her organization with concerns about the festival’s new route and venue changes. The centre responded to the call by scheduling Queer Fest, a musical showcase to be held in Volunteer Park on Saturday to be followed in the evening by a march from Seattle Central Community College to the park, and includes the traditional Dyke March.
“We stepped in when the community approached us. This is in keeping with our mission statement. It’s about hearing and affirming those who do not have a voice, to step in and work with those who do not have the resources, or no platforms to do what they want to do. We are not against going downtown, but it’s about being there for communities,” says Thomas, adding that as far as the centre is concerned, there is a lot of room for pride throughout the city.
But there is the matter of a cease-and-desist letter which Seattle Out and Proud served to the centre asking them to refrain from using the trademarked “Seattle Pride” in the promotion of centre events. And an ad that Seattle Gay News ran, referring to two parallel Pride festivals, which again Hennessey claims, is not accurate for the already cited trademark exclusivity Out and Proud claims.
Yet both organizations maintain that talk of divisiveness is over-hyped. Thomas says Out and Proud and the centre have worked to ensure their respective group’s events do not compete for public patronage, while Hennessey touts the increase in business sponsorships and urges the community to just “go for it…back and forth between events.”
But not everyone is as optimistic as Thomas and Hennessey. Mr Gay Seattle, Nick Lovelace is apprehensive. “My feeling is it will fail. My hope is it will not.” He says both sides minimized the conflict between them when the media got wind of the news that the two were planning separate events.
“This is dividing the community. People don’t know what to do for Pride because of the competing events. There’s a Raise Your Voice march on Saturday, a Community Center thing. Then you also have the Pride March at 11 [Sunday] morning, a Seattle Out and Proud event, bars on the Hill and a festival going on downtown at the Seattle Center, complains Lovelace, an ActionNW volunteer co-ordinator, who says he is not of the-more-the-merrier school of thought.
“Actually, people are talking about boycotting which means we’ll be boycotting ourselves,” adds Lovelace who plans to participate in both Center and Out and Proud events despite his misgivings.
“I have to support both. I have to support Pride wherever it is. It’s just a very messy year this year.”
Another longtime gay rights activist Bill Dubay agrees.
“This is a time to celebrate and I think the community should celebrate. I don’t care where it is. We don’t need to be fighting. We have plenty of opposition out there and we need to be united.”