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.
Janna:it’s a tragedy yes and it will cnitnoue unless some actions will be taken. With a help of activists and International Organisation it will be possible help those who are on their edge to death.
Brian Murphy says
I was surprised and disappointed to see this section in your article on Seattle Pride 2009:
I completely reject the implication that these companies don’t support their LGBTQ employees or our community at large.
I work for one of these companies and apart from my company funding many Pride month activities, we do get time off from work to care for our same-sex partners and our families, we also receive adoption benefits and paternity or maternity leave just like opposite-sex couples, and the company has very clear policies in place to prevent workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
In fact, my employer has publicly supported LGBTQ anti-discrimination legislation at both the state and federal level and they are supporters of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act, currently before congress, which would mandate fair and equal workplace and taxation treatment for LGBTQ employees.
That sounds like a company who is walking the walk and not just talking the talk.
If you were to ask Seattle Out and Proud, the organization that runs the Pride Parade, I think they would tell you that Corporate Sponsorship is absolutely essential for the Pride Parade to be a reality. At a time when many companies are making painful cuts to remain viable, I’d like to thank the corporations who showed their commitment to our community and contributed to make the Pride Parade a reality in this difficult year.
Allow me to extend an invitation to anyone interested in understanding and advancing LGBTQ workplace equality to join Out & Equal Seattle, the local affiliate of a national LGBTQ workplace advocacy organization, whose mission is to educate and empower organizations, human resource professionals, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and individual employees through programs and services that result in equal policies, opportunities, practices, and benefits in the workplace regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, or characteristics.
The employees of Macy’s, Starbucks, Microsoft and Orbitz Travel and many other organizations here in the northwest who are active in Out & Equal’s Seattle affiliate would be happy to talk about our work and progress on workplace equality.