Homo The Pride Parade
posted by April 24 at 10:15 AMon
SOaP—the group that moved the pride parade downtown last year—is having a meeting tonight to decide what the hell to do. They owe Seattle Center 100K and the planned post-parade festival at Seattle Center has already been cancelled. Tonight SOaP is meeting and may decide to disband and/or cancel the downtown pride parade too.
Let’s back up for a minute:
Last year whiners predicted that a downtown parade would be a poorly attended disaster and under the divisive “leadership” of the LGBT Center (never writing them a check) hosted a competing event on Capitol Hill. The Seattle Gay News did its level best to create the impression of controversy and predicted that the parade on the hill would be bigger and and better attended than the parade downtown.
On Pride Weekend 2006 Seattle’s gays and lesbians voted with their feet: the LGBT Center/SGN “Queer Fest” was a poorly attended disaster; the downtown parade and the festival at Seattle Center were a smash. The downtown parade attracted ten times as many people as the Capitol Hill parade. (And that’s if we accept the LGBT Center’s doubtless inflated estimates of Queer Fest attendance.) People were giddy after last year’s parade through downtown; the parade was invigorated, meaningful again, symbolic of the arrival of gays and lesbians in the mainstream of this city’s cultural life.
The shit storm over this year’s pride events can’t be allowed to erase the positive memories of last year’s event. It’s worth pausing for a moment to review some of the coverage of last year’s pride events. The 2006’s post-parade coverage can be read here, here, and here.
And here are some choice quotes from last year’s Pride Parade wrap-ups in the Seattle Times, PI, and Stranger:
The march traditionally has been held on Capitol Hill, the epicenter of the city’s gay community. But this year the parade for the first time marched from Westlake Park to Seattle Center. For many, the walk right through the heart of the city was special.
“There was a sense, marching down the streets today, of having arrived. Of being viewed as equal,” said state Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, who strode down the broad, leafy avenues of Fourth Avenue holding hands with his longtime partner, Michael Shiosaki. “I think the fact that people felt comfortable downtown is new. Michael and I hold hands on the Hill. We don’t downtown. But we did today.”
Most interviewed at Sunday’s parade, supported the move to downtown. “With so much going on with legislation about our rights, it’s really important to be seen as just a part of the larger community,” said Keith Smith of Seattle as he stood near the Belltown fire station on Fourth Avenue.
On Saturday evening, the business-backed rival parade on Broadway, meant to be a finger in the eye of the Seattle Out and Proud committee, turned out to be little more than a whimpered lament grafted onto the normal night-before-Pride dyke march. Then, on Sunday morning, under a hot sun, more than 200,000 gays and gay-watchers voted with their feet, gathering along Fourth Avenue to watch Seattle’s first downtown Pride Parade. The sidewalks were clogged and the spectacle was well-received. The appearance of so many homosexuals (and their fans) in the heart of downtown Seattle accomplished its un-ghettoizing aim. And afterward, the Seattle Center grounds were packed with celebrants. A dykeish-looking female police officer was spotted dancing in the Center’s main fountain with a large group of half-naked homos.
That’s what really happened, folks: the leaders at SOaP made the right choice in moving the parade downtown. People went, people loved it—ten times as many people attended the parade downtown. Bear that in mind when you read quotes like this one from yesterday’s PI:
“They were doing things that were not the will of the people,” said Susan Benner, who helped coordinate last year’s Saturday-night parade. “I am very pleased to hear that it is not going to be downtown. Whatever happens up here on the hill will be much more to the people’s liking.”
Huh? Who is this douchebag and where does she get off speaking for “the people”? The will of the people was pretty clearly expressed last year: people preferred the parade downtown. There were ten times as many people at the parade downtown than there were at the Capitol Hill sulkfest. The parade downtown was much more to people’s liking than the parade on the hill.
The one thing the parade downtown failed to do, of course, was raise enough money to cover its expenses—some of which appear to have come as a surprise to SOaP. (From today’s Seattle Times: “On the surface, it appeared a huge success. Then the city sent a $97,000 bill — a figure that came as a surprise to some Seattle Out and Proud members — and letters asking for a payment plan.”)
So what to do? Well, SOaP—which in the time its taken me to write this post has moved from contemplating disbanding to actually disbanding—has the permits for a parade through downtown on Sunday June 24, 2007. What SOaP doesn’t have is the right to stage a festival at Seattle Center after. But as I pointed out yesterday, Seattle Center is open to the public—there’s actually nothing to stop SOaP—or the group they decide to hand off their parade permits to—from staging the pride parade along the downtown route. Then after it’s over the gays can quietly file back up the hill. Or we can storm into Seattle Center anyway, take over the fountain, and have a big DIY picnic party blowout. If you can’t party without booze, fill a water bottle with vodka. If you can’t enjoy the fountain without pounding house music, bring a boom box or your iPod. We can have what we had last year—just without the elephant ear stands and community group booths. And is that really a loss?
I also want to second, again, what Dom said yesterday. There’s a role for the city to play here. The pride parade had not only outgrown the Broadway route and the Volunteer Park rally site symbolically, it had outgrown both sites physically. It needs to be downtown, and the city knows it. And the city should step up, forgive the debt, create a new permitting process that makes Seattle Center available for “free-speech evnts” at reduced rates, and help make this event happen.
Sadly, as things stand now, the parade will most likely limp back up the hill and into the arms of the reactionary douchebags that did all they could to discredit last year’s move downtown. These douchebags claimed to speak for the whole community then—people like Susan Benner, the idiots at Seattle Gay News, a useless LGBT Center that actively works against the clearly expressed wishes of the gay community—and they’ll claim to speak for the whole community now. It’s galling enough to see them win. We don’t have to let them re-write history: The parade downtown was a success, people preferred it, and but for SOaP’s financial crack-up there would be no question about the route of this year’s parade.