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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 20, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 12
Hate Crimes on Capitol Hill
Arts & Entertainment
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Hate Crimes on Capitol Hill

To the Editor:

The rise in hate crimes against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered people on Capitol Hill sparked a forum on March 3 led by City Council member Kshama Sawant. Many incidents were reported and some ideas emerged. There is one action that the City could take that is practical, within the City's power, is relatively inexpensive, and is hugely effective. This is Visibility. If we make the LGBTQ character and culture of Capitol Hill visibly and concretely real, we not only boost the confidence and security of the LGBTQ residents, but we also send a strong message that our people will not be displaced, submerged, or forced back into the closet here in our own neighborhood.

Here are concrete examples of that visibility:



1. Erect a flagpole in Cal Anderson Park where the Rainbow flag will fly proudly 24-7, 365 days of the year. This suggestion was first put forth by Social Outreach Seattle. Many businesses on Capitol Hill display our flag during Pride Month and a good number of them keep the flags up all summer long. In fact, Anytime Gym on 17th still has our flag up since last year. A flag is more than a colorful cloth. It is a claim on a piece of territory. It is a visible sign that Capitol Hill is a 'home' for LGBTQ people.

2. Paint the crosswalks at Pike & Broadway and John & Broadway in rainbow colors. This is another idea that was put forward in the Seattle Gay News, and the City Transportation Department, in my understanding, has approved the concept and it was just a matter of funding.

3. Post supplemental street signs on Pike, Pine, Broadway, and 11th. These are brown and white signs that are mounted on the regular street sign poles just under the green and white street identifiers. The City posted just such signs on 19th between Madison and Union that identify that stretch as 'Rev. McKinney Avenue' after the pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church which is located near the corner of Madison and 19th. If the City can do that for a pastor, the City can certainly do that for an entire community. For example, Pike from Boren to Madison could be sub-named Gay Street. Pine from Boren to Madison could be sub-named Lesbian Street. 11th Avenue from Madison to Pine could be sub-named Transgender Street. Broadway from Pike to John could be sub-named Bisexual Avenue. This is not window dressing. This is a clear, tangible, physical symbol that says to everybody: 'LGBTQ people belong here and are welcome here.'

4. Make the Sound Transit Link Light Rail Station at Broadway and John reflect the LGBTQ character of Capitol Hill. A few years ago, Sound Transit convened a community forum to roll out their decision for decorating the new station. Their decision was to install cut up warplanes! They claimed it would symbolize peace and Seattle's aerospace history. We loudly protested. Capitol Hill is not about the military-industrial complex! Capitol Hill is not about Boeing! Other Light Rail stations in the Rainier Valley make an effort to reflect the racial diversity there. Why is the LGBTQ community deliberately snubbed here? We were flatly ignored. Now the station is nearing completion. Of all the dismissive insults that the City could throw at the LGBTQ community, this one is the top. Can City Hall still do something to correct this situation?

5. An LGBTQ Community Center was already tried once and it failed. I was on the founding board and a major donor to the center. It failed for many reasons but I think that the underlying reason was that it was set up with a lot of fanfare by the City and some community leaders and then ignored to run on its own. It was not organic from our LGBTQ community and it did not have a business model. In the years since then, Gay City has emerged as a viable community center which houses several of our community organizations, an LGBTQ library, and serves as a gathering place. It is not the total answer, but it is doing valuable work. GSBA has established a storefront on Broadway as well. A number of community organizations, like GSBA and Lifelong, have floated the idea of having a space on the block when Sound Transit finishes their station at Broadway and John. Given our past experience, I don't think the City can give us an LGBTQ center. It has to grow organically from the community and have a solid business plan if it is going to be sustainable. What the City can do is smooth out the paperwork and zoning if such a center happens to arise.

6. Rent control is a bedrock economic policy that would help prevent lower income people of all sexual orientations and gender identities from being displaced from Capitol Hill. While that may be a long way off, the Seattle Housing Authority does maintain a series of housing establishments on Capitol Hill for lower income people. Two things the City can do is 1) ensure that SHA has strongly positive policies for LGBTQ residents and that they are enforced vigorously and 2) expand the number of properties that SHA manages on Capitol Hill. It also would not hurt if all SHA facilities proudly displayed Rainbow flags during Pride month. After all, the YMCA does.

Janice Van Cleve
Seattle


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