Saturdays Capital City Pride Festival is the first since Washington voters upheld marriage equality. Organizers agree thats worthy of celebration but add that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people still face plenty of challenges.
As a gay man, Im very concerned about issues other than marriage, said Matthew Shrader, the festivals booth coordinator. I want to get married some day, but in order to get married, I have to be alive and healthy. HIV prevention services are being cut throughout the state.
Some people might say we are post-GLBT rights, said festival co-chairwoman Anna Schlecht. Id say were in a period of virtual equality. We have the laws, but we dont have the full experience of equality yet.
There are still issues that our community faces: bullying in schools, job discrimination thats hard to prove, and a society that has many laws in place that people are still getting used to, she added.
Marriage equality is having an effect on the festival, though. The good news about marriage for gay men and lesbians might be one reason the festival has shrunk this year. The main events are on one day instead of two, and theres no beer garden.
We lost a couple of key volunteers, Schlecht said. We wondered if in this time of virtual equality, people feel that they dont need Pride anymore.
Organizers sent out a plea for volunteers and got a huge response, she said. We got a whole influx 40 people. Its older parents and grandparents from PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Its very young people who are part of the drag-show community. Its people in their teens who are participating with their parents.
It feels like one of the first years that we have the full spectrum of the community all ages, all races, all walks of life.
And this year, Schlecht sees a lot more support and smiles from the community at large.
More of the community celebrates with us, she said. We have people slow down and walk by while were putting our rainbow flags up around town, and they join with us in celebration. Its people from all walks of life. Some of them dont seem like the kind of people who would have had a friendly word for us five or 10 years ago, but now they do. I feel so much more a part of my community and so much more accepted.
The festival has come a long way since its beginnings as a political rally, she said.
Its not quite the fighting-for-the-right-to-exist festival it started off as, she said. Its evolved over the years to be a cultural festival for the GLBT community much like Oktoberfest is for German-Americans. Its a way that you can invite the greater community to join in celebrating the culture of your community.
The only difference is that were the ones with the drag queens, she said. We dont have the rides that Lakefair has, but we have the drag queens.