For a time, Seattle Pride was a mostly Capitol Hill affair. Over the years it has grown into a citywide event with a massive parade through the streets of downtown. This summer, an expanded slate of events will take place on Capitol Hill even as the celebration spreads across the city. This weekend, the Hill’s 2013 events continue with the annual Pride Picnic in Volunteer Park:
All the fun begins at 11:00am on Saturday, June 15 at Volunteer Park in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. There will be great food, live entertainment and activities for all ages. There will also be representatives from some great non-profits.
$1.00 donation for the picnic meal includes tacos from picnic sponsor Chipotle. Also provided are hot dogs, fresh fruit, salads, and beverages. Proceeds to benefit YouthCare and Food Lifeline.
The organizers of a new addition to Pride activities on the Hill have announced details of a new an important celebration that will mark its introduction on June 28th in the midst of the city’s 39th annual Pride celebrations. Seattle’s Trans Pride will be “a sort of ‘coming out’ party for Seattle’s increasingly visible – and vocal – transgender community,” organizers say. The Friday, June 28th parade will start at Seattle Central and march through a few blocks of Broadway and Pike/Pine before arriving at Cal Anderson. The event joins Saturday, June 29th’s Dyke March in the Capitol Hill Pride parade department. Details on Trans Pride are below:
NEW PRIDE PARADE WILL HIGHLIGHT SEATTLE’S GROWING TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY
Local Activists Seek Visibility and Acceptance
“I came on vacation to Seattle, and for the first time in my life I met other trans people.”
“Seattle’s trans-identified community is one of the largest in America, rivaling any major city.”
“We’re your neighbors. We’re your barista. We’re developing your software,
saving your life at the hospital, shelving your books at the library.”
On June 28, 2013, two days before Seattle’s 39th annual Gay Pride parade brings crowds to downtown Seattle, a smaller parade will wind through the streets of Capitol Hill.
This parade is Seattle’s Trans Pride (www.transprideseattle.org), and it is a sort of “coming out” party for Seattle’s increasingly visible – and vocal – transgender community. Organizers of the parade hope it will become, like Gay Pride, an annual event.
Seattle’s Trans Pride parade will be one of the nation’s first. Only a handful of other U.S. cities have held marches in support of transgender rights. Seattle was the first city in the nation to hold a transgender pride event in 1997. This year’s event is a much larger revival of that pioneering spirit.
The parade’s primary sponsor is the Gender Justice League (www.genderjusticeleague.org), a nonprofit formed last fall by a group of local transgender activists and their allies. Their mission is to advocate for Seattle’s growing transgender and gender-nonconforming community – a minority that is among our society’s least visible and yet most persecuted groups.
The parade will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 28. Marchers will assemble on Broadway in front of Seattle Central Community College, and make their way to nearby Cal Anderson Park for performances by nationally known trans-identified artists, including singer Rae Spoon, writer Julia Serano, and comedian Ian Harvie.
The City of Seattle has awarded Trans Pride $15,292 in grant money to stage the event, which is affiliated with the much larger Gay Pride parade and fiscally sponsored by the Gay City Health Project.
According to local transgender activist Elayne Wilie, a founding member of the Gender Justice League, “Seattle’s trans-identified community is one of the largest in America, rivaling any major city. Many people move here because they know about the community here.”
This was true for Jenn Popkin, a transgender woman and the Deputy Director of the Gender Justice League as well as another of its founders. “I’m from southern Virginia. I came on vacation to Seattle, and for the first time in my life I met other trans people.”
Says Wylie, “The Trans Pride parade is about telling people, ‘Hey, this is who I am and I’m not ashamed to show this.’ We’re your neighbors. We’re your barista, we’re developing your software, saving your life at the hospital, shelving your books at the library. We pay rent and have cell phones and buy groceries. Trans-identified people are everywhere. We’re part of society. We all live together, and yet we suffer some of the most grievous human indignities imaginable.”
By just about any measure, Wylie is correct. Among Americans who identify as transgender, the statistics are bleak, and include devastatingly high rates of poverty (four times more likely to live in poverty), homelessness (19% of Transgender people have been homeless at some point), unemployment (double the national unemployment rate), harassment (90% report being discriminated or harassed in the workplace), assault (More than 1 in 4 trans people have been attacked due to bias), and suicide attempts (41% attempted suicide at some point in their life).*
Part of the problem, which the parade hopes to address, is one of visibility: Often, the very existence of transgender people has been denied. On the rare occasions when they have been acknowledged, the portrayals have been almost uniformly negative and sensational (think Jerry Springer).
However these portrayals are starting to change. With the high-profile media coverage of transgender celebrities like Chaz Bono, Lana Wachowski, and Isis King of America’s Next Top Model, mainstream television is introducing Americans to transgenderindividuals who don’t seem so different from the rest of us. Jenn Popkin is excited about this. “For the first time in my life,” she says, “I am seeing people like me in the media.”
But while images of transgender people are improving, legal protections are lagging behind. Only 16 U.S. states have laws protecting the rights of transgender citizens (yes, Washington State is among them). This means that in most of the nation, it remains legal to deny someone housing, fire them, or refuse them access to businesses that serve the public, simply because they aretransgender.
Transgender activists have been working for years within the umbrella of the broader LGBT movement. But while transgenderand gender-nonconforming people share common struggles and goals with their gay allies, they are distinct. (In simplest terms, sexuality is about whom you are attracted to; gender is about who you are.) And the struggle for gay rights has often eclipsed the fight for gender equality.
“We’ve kind of been waiting at the back of the bus,” says Danielle Askini, Executive Director of the Gender Justice League. “The trans rights movement is 20 years behind the lesbian and gay movement. We really don’t have a lot of national organizations. But now, something is starting to coalesce. It’s really exciting.”
That excitement is palpable when you talk with these founding members of the Gender Justice League. They know that things are starting to shift for transgender Americans, and that their work on behalf of Seattle’s growing transgender community is likely to resonate throughout the rest of the country.
This may explain why, when they picked a name for their organization, they chose one with superhero undertones. (The “Justice League,” first featured in DC comics in the 1960s, was a team of crime-fighting superheroes, and included Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and other well-known superheroes.)
Jenn Popkin explains why the name fits so well. “Many of us have lived double lives, many of us have had to be our own heroes, and many of us have wished there was a hero out there for us. We want to be heroes for others, so they’ll know that they’re not alone.”
She also has a lot of faith in her adopted city’s willingness to embrace her and others like her: “I think Seattle has this live-and-let-live attitude. It’s a city with room for everybody and it has become a magnet for Trans people from all around the country.”
* Statistics are drawn from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study, “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the NationalTransgender Discrimination Survey,” 2011. View the full report online: http://www.thetaskforce.org/