We Will Not Be Erased: The Importance of Rural Pride Celebrations

“Thank you. It’s just that my son has been really ‘stuck’ since last year, and we didn’t know where to go or who to talk to.”

Her words rang through my mind and connected with all the times I had heard this sentiment before. I stifled a sigh and remembered my dedication to this work. The truth is, I’ll probably hear it again. And again.

I run an LGBTQ+ youth support group on the south end of Whidbey Island, Washington. Despite being a mere 35 miles from Seattle, we are rural with a capital R. The island can feel so isolating at times—far from resources or large community—and the population size is small. We do the best we can with what we have, but community can be hard to find.

This is why we march.

Along with the youth group, I am honored to be co-coordinating this year’s Queer Pride Parade on Whidbey. It’s the parade’s fourth year and feels like a critical one. As my co-coordinator and I contemplated the event this year, we came across two major decisions. The first was the use of the word “queer” in the title. Every year, we receive pushback from folks who believe the term to be derogatory, saying that it’s “too provocative” or makes some uncomfortable. But for many, “queer” represents a term that activists have worked tirelessly to reclaim—a term that feels inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities within our LGBTQ+ community. Particularly for youth, using this term is to stand strong and proud in that work.

The second question was whether to have a parade at all. I still remember the feelings that came up as I voiced the question: “Maybe our community would be more comfortable with a dance somewhere. Maybe inside at Bayview Hall?”

For both of these questions—to remove “queer” or to go inside—we came to one conclusion. In a year such as this, with the political signs from the last election enmeshed in our youths’ memories, and the ever-growing list of queer rights at stake, we decided that now, more than ever, visibility is core. We will not be erased. We will not go into hiding. And we will not stand down.

This is why we march.

And we sincerely hope our community and allies will join us. The parade is scheduled for Sunday, August 13th at 2:00pm in Langley. If you’d like to walk or ride with us, parade lineup begins at noon and is absolutely free to register.

We not only welcome your support, but need it. If you have any questions about the parade, our values, or life on Whidbey Island, please find us at qpowhidbey.com.

Peace, Love, and Pride,

Skye Newkirk is a former Community Grants Intern at Pride Foundation. He currently lives on Whidbey Island and works for Island County Human Services in behavioral health. During his off time, he runs the Whidbey Youth Support and Empowerment “Alliances” group and advocates for transgender rights.

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