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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 15, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 28
Gay Seattleite goes home to Mid-Columbia Pride
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Gay Seattleite goes home to Mid-Columbia Pride

by Joshua Michael Rumley - SGN Contributing Writer

Seattleites often flash a look of confusion when I tell them that I'm originally from the Tri-Cities in Eastern Washington. I'm not sure whether this confusion is from them trying to locate the area on a mental map of Washington, or if they find it hard to believe that I, an out Gay man, could possibly be from an area that some have deemed a 'Fox News Republican' wasteland. While I don't argue that the area is full of Bill O'Reilly fanatics, I'm happy to report the Tri-Cities hosted an incredibly successful Pride celebration this past weekend and that I had the great pleasure of attending.

My life as a Gay man drastically changed when I moved to Seattle last July. The sheer number of resources available to me boggled my mind. There are countless non-profits in Seattle serving the community, while back home there are just a handful of overworked and underfunded groups. In the Tri-Cities there is only one Gay bar, but in Seattle I almost feel like I have to hire an event planner just to figure out my weekends. So when I heard about Mid-Columbia Pride, there was no question that I had to attend and bring a little slice of Seattle back home.

Mid-Columbia Pride has been uniting the LGBT community of Eastern Washington for the last five years. The 2011 celebration lasted an entire week and consisted of events such as an LGBT film festival, a karaoke competition, the Rainbow Awards, a community kickball game, a youth dance, and an interfaith Pride service. It never crossed my mind when growing up in the Tri-Cities that I would ever see the day when our community would be represented and celebrated outside the walls of the local Gay bar.

I realized early on in my career as an out Gay man that one of the most important components for creating social change is having the minority be visible to the majority. Bars have traditionally been the community center for LGBT individuals. It's where the community first had representation outside of individual struggles to fit into society, and where the collective voice for equality first started to resonate. I was interested to see how the Tri-Cities would respond to this call for equality in its backyard, and I was surprised when I heard absolutely nothing negative yelled back.

I half-expected fire and brimstone to be hurled at Mid-Columbia Pride attendees, but I was shocked to not see any protestors, to not hear any f-bombs, and to not see a horde of soccer moms bolting out of the park where a couple hundred homosexuals magically appeared. Instead I saw car after car of people arriving to celebrate. I wondered where the opposition was, where the Fox News hellhounds were, but then I realized it was a Sunday afternoon and they were either consumed with scripture or at a post-church visit to the local buffet. We were free to celebrate.

The lack of opposition to the Pride celebration resonated within me in a surprising way: I cried. People close to me know that I tear up very easily - all it usually takes is one Sarah McLachlan pet abuse commercial or a showing of Love Actually - but there was something remarkable about having the very perception of my hometown rattled.

The thing that stood out to me about the community's response to Mid-Columbia Pride was the welcome given by two police officers at the beginning of the festival. 'We're so happy that you decided to celebrate here and we hope you celebrate Pride here again. Happy Pride,' Officer Child said to an audience of drag queens, Gays, my parents, Lesbians, and a single person dressed as Buzz Lightyear. The overwhelmingly warm response to Mid-Columbia Pride started to make me think that maybe the reason why the area seems so conservative is because there hasn't been a platform of acceptance for the community at large to speak from before.

Acceptance is something our community seeks from the country because, without it, there would never be true equality. Attending the Pride festival in my hometown made me realize that I have bit of accepting on my own to do. I need to shake myself out the mindset that every Republican is out to destroy the LGBT community. Looking around at the festival, I realized I was surrounded by socially liberal Republicans - one of whom is my own father. While that doesn't mean I'm going to open my heart anytime soon to Michele Bachmann (who is so nutty that anyone allergic to nuts within a mile radius should have a EpiPen readily available), it does mean that I'm going to analyze my inner prejudices before trying to make assumptions about others.

There was something different about the atmosphere at the Mid-Columbia Pride festival that I really connected with. Everyone attending the event genuinely seemed excited to be there and to see the different nonprofit booths and vendors. Their focus wasn't on how little they could wear or how much they could drink before having to be carried out by security as it sometimes seems is the case at larger Pride events, they were just happy to be around people like them and to feel accepted for who they are. This is why it's so important that everyone gets out and supports regional Pride events; the smaller towns and communities are usually the ones most in need for a big dose of Pride. Believe it or not, Gays do exist outside major metropolitan areas and hundred of miles away from the nearest H&M.

I feel blessed that there are so many passionate people in my hometown creating change and developing new opportunities for the new generation of LGBT individuals and allies; both of my parents are huge homo lovers now. It's the hard work that these individuals do within communities such as the Tri-Cities that helps educate those who were originally unwilling to hear our communities call for equality. I think Judy Garland said it best: 'There's no place like home, there's no place like home.'

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