By Wen Liu
Northwest Asian Weekly
Thousands of people congregated along Fourth Avenue to cheer for nearly 200 groups marching in Seattle’s Pride Parade on Sunday, June 28.
Various Asian organizations including Sahngnoksoo — a Korean and Korean American organization, Trikone — a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer South Asians — and Khmer In Action (KIA) all participated and marched together to represent queer Asian communities. In addition to the festive spirit of marchers, they also came with political agendas.
“I usually don’t go to Pride because it’s so commercialized. I would not be here if I wasn’t drumming with my group,” said Sunny Kim, a member of Sahngnoksoo.
“Many of my friends decided not to march this year because they think it’s very commercial, but I said so what? Pride is about communities, and that’s why we should march together and express our politics,” said Nitika Raj, a Chaya employee who was there with her colleagues. Chaya is a nonprofit organization aimed at helping South Asian women.
The presence of corporate sponsorship was prevalent. Queer employees of companies such as Macy’s, Starbucks, Microsoft, and Orbitz Travel held large banners of their employers as they marched in the parade.
“The corporate sponsorship is very hypocritical to me because they don’t really support their queer workers. They just put them on the street once a year to make the corporation look good. Being queer-friendly is also being worker-friendly,” said Stephanie Adler, a student labor activist and queer worker. “Supporting queer workers is giving them time off from work, supporting same-sex adoption, and condemning job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression.”
Besides commercialization and advocacy for labor rights, marriage equality was also one of the major political issues at Pride. The national debate on gay marriage has heated up since the end of last year when Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, passed in California.
Queer Ally Coalition (QAC), a queer and allies grassroots organization, joined several other groups to march in the Marriage Contingent at Pride, which aims to demand marriage equality.
Members of Sahngnoksoo, KIA, Democracy Insurgent (DI) — a University of Washington based Middle East Solidarity group — and individual marchers in the Marriage Equality Contingent chanted, “L.G.B.T. — Marriage is a civil right!” together, along with QAC, in the parade.
“I’m not queer myself, but I came out to support my friends and community,” said Suzanne Hu, who works at the Wing Luke Asian Museum. “It feels natural for me to be supportive — no one chooses to be discriminated [against].”
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), a Canadian anti-Zionist group, was banned by the Toronto Pride organizers this year. Despite the Pride organizers’ effort to make Pride nonpolitical, more than 200 people marched with QuAIA at Toronto Pride on the same day of Seattle Pride.
“There is a huge Arab community in Toronto. It is racist that the Toronto Pride organizers are trying to separate Palestinian issues from queer issues,” said Matt Hamilton, a member of DI, who held a sign that said, “Queers Against White Supremacy.”
This year’s Pride Parade is also the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots which pioneered the gay rights movement in the 60s. Forty years after Stonewall, many are still asking where the movement headed. To some, the movement is definitely more complex and diverse than accepting the gay community — it’s also about labor justice, marriage equality, immigrant rights, struggles against racism, patriarchy, and wars. To some, Pride is a community celebration that strives to mobilize social and political changes.
“We want to make Pride a community event … and push it to be more political rather than purely commercial. We see gay marriage as a civil rights issue and we demand full civil rights for queer individuals,” said Eli Steffen, a member of QAC. ♦
Wen Liu can be reached at email@example.com.