Pride, the event, is about inclusivity, affirmation and visibility and the event is usually centered on the gathering of the LGBTQ community. This year, due to COVID-19, Boise Pride will be a virtual event dubbed Power in Progress. That means Pride will look different.
“We don’t have the crowds this year,” said Boise Pridefest Board Member Ryan Russell, “but we do have a great message and support for the community. We have put together a huge lineup that reflects our current situation to be more inclusive and diverse. We can still celebrate who we are and we hope everyone joins us virtually.”
Boise Weekly sat down with some local members of the LGBTQ community to talk about pride, virtual Pridefest and how that might unfold without the usual parade and large crowds.
One of the original organizers of Boise Pride, Hummel said he and others began organizing in 1989, with the first official Pridefest taking place in 1990.
JH: Pride means visibility for a community that’s been historically marginalized, that’s been oppressed. It’s important for everyone to come out and take the risk. I was a deputy attorney general when I came out. It was on the news and it was scary. And there was the risk that I could lose my job. There was no protection.
In the beginning, Pride was sort of like a rebellion thing. At the first one we only had like 300 people tops. Even within the community it was controversial. At the first Pride a bunch of people were in costumes or dressed up. There were even people with bags over their heads with eyeholes cut out. It kind of goes against what Pride was about, but it’s because they were scared. The march was really more like a run and it wasn’t a premier route, but over time the city worked with us. Even within the community it was controversial.
It’s changed a lot over the years. It's gotten so large and it’s so amazing to see. My hat's off to the new organizers—they’ve pulled off some really amazing things. It’s different now. Pride is just part of the social fabric. You see businesses and the city supporting it and it's not controversial anymore, just part of the community, and that’s great.
A writer and entertainer, Minerva Jayne is a staple in local literary and entertainment circles. She writes an advice column for Boise Weekly and for many in Idaho, she’s the poster-child of the city's LGBTQ scene.
MJ: The visual aspect [of Pridefest 2020] is important to Pride, but what people will miss the most is the gathering of community outside the confines of a nightclub. The positive thing about virtual Pride is that people can show up to the event without leaving their homes and that gives Pride the possibility of reaching a larger audience, one that may not like large crowds or feel welcome.
I also think a virtual Pride will help people re-frame their idea of what it is to be proud. It takes away the party aspect and allows people to be more self-reflective about what Pride means to them individually, especially in this current, tumultuous political environment.
Right now, with the pandemic, it seems appropriate to talk about Pride again, not just as a tradition. The pandemic has mobilized people in so many ways to start more fearlessly living their lives and we’re seeing it with the BLM movement; and it only makes sense that that same energy would be helping to re-shape how people feel about the LGBTQ experience—especially over the last four years.
To see the young people so excited and to feel how excited they were, that was a great experience and having it virtually we can hopefully reach more young people that wouldn’t be allowed to attend. Anything that wants to have a hold on the future needs to embrace technology.
A dancer at Ballet Idaho, Carnell went to his first Pridefest a few years ago, just three weeks after coming out.
TC: I wore what I wanted and I never felt uncomfortable, and I felt proud and I didn’t feel afraid. It was so nice not to feel alone. I think when you’re young and gay, you’re already terrified if you’re trying to keep it a secret. I’ve been out two years but I tried to hide it for so long. I always felt different but I had to figure it out; but once I was out, things started moving up.
Pride is about visibility and being OK with who you are. It’s about not being afraid of who you are and knowing yourself, and that can mean a million different things. I’m not going to dull myself to make other people comfortable.
Having Pride in person is always best, but what I’ve learned during COVID is that virtual events can do different things and can reach people in a different way. Maybe people that aren’t ready to physically come to Pride can still come out on their own terms. Maybe people will use the idea of virtual Pride to safely come out or just celebrate for the first time. Being LGBTQ takes strength and I think confidence, and people can see that at Pride. If it’s made for the people they will love it and participate.
Crispin Gravatt/Penelope Windsor
Gravatt is a local activist who has run for a seat on the Boise City Council, volunteered with numerous local nonprofits, is the first Drag Out The Vote Ambassador in the Treasure Valley, and performs drag as Penelope Windsor.
CG: Pride is and always has been political because the fight and struggle just to be continues to this day for far too many of us. I have an example that combines queerness, the arts and the act of being: Last year I was walking downtown in drag on Eighth Street, and I was accosted by a man who didn’t like seeing my queerness, saying things like, "What are you and go back to where you came from?" Fortunately a woman stopped and yelled at him. She was able to step in, but that’s just one of many examples that I’ve experienced.
It reinforces that Pride is political and existence is political for the LGBTQ community, and many other communities as well. I think about, too, that things like domestic violence and partner violence is higher in the LGBTQ community, and with COVID not having a space to gather this year for Pride is a huge loss. I don’t know what virtual Pride will look like, but I hope that folks can work to build networks that can help them secure their own safety and wellbeing.
This points back to that LGBTQ people don’t always feel safe in the Treasure Valley, and things can’t change unless we change them. I consider myself a political drag entertainer. Drag can serve to lower the barrier to enter political discussions. The institutions are designed to be intimidating, and by making it accessible, more people can join in the discussions. I’m excited about the theme this year and excited to see how everyone interprets it—especially drag, because it’s designed to break down barriers and boundaries.
I’m just one performer and we are stronger because of our diversity. We have a fantastic community here in Boise with everyone doing their part to make the world a little better, whether that’s political engagement or fantasy escapism.
Laura Keeler and Kylie North
Keeler and North are the owners of Water Bear Bar. They’ve had a difficult time navigating the reopening of their bar/restaurant during the pandemic, and said it has made them think about Pride differently this year.
KN: We’ve been banging our heads against the wall all summer trying to figure out how to open back up, and we’ve been talking about Pride a lot. I’ve never been so grateful for Pride and even though we’re fighting, we recognize the privilege we hold. We opened our bar with the idea of radical accessibility and that’s what Pride is about.
I came out a few years ago during Pride; it can give people courage. We wanted to have the bar open to celebrate on the patio and we wanted to be a visible part of it. For us, Pride is walking in this building every day and although we joke and say Boise is blue, it’s really purple at best. We moved here and put everything we have into this bar and into Boise because we love it here.
LK: How cool is it to take capitalism, that excludes so many people, and turn it around to make a place that includes everyone. That’s what our bar is about and we have pride about that. As far as virtual Pride goes I’m skeptical but hopeful because virtual Pride can be good in different ways.
A huge part of Pride is the gathering aspect but keeping it going is the big point. It shows how real Pride is; we aren’t going away no matter the hardships. We celebrate Pride every day like Kylie said by coming to work, and although we can’t hold part of the celebration on our patio we will still be celebrating.
Dalton Dagondon Tiegs
Tiegs works at the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual And Domestic Violence as a bilingual social change associate. He said his activism is shaped by his identity as an immigrant and as a queer person from the Philippines.
DT: I spent many years wanting to be a model minority citizen but I felt I could never achieve that because of my queerness. My activism is shaped by sharing those experiences with other people who are in the margins. We live in a world that’s designed for specific people and while my experiences are unique, they’re not the only stories of marginalization.
Pride is a spiritual experience for me, and I think it’s been commodified and appropriated by capitalists and nonprofits alike. Pride for me is many issues. When we look at the context of Pride and before the first brick was thrown, we saw real class, race and healthcare issues. Those problems are still very real today.
When I think about Pride I think about it as a community, and looking at what it would take to make all of us free. It’s a careful balance for me. I think of the many oppressed people who deserve to feel joy but also recognize the way that we traditionally celebrate Pride through partying may not be for everyone. We have to be creative and diverse about the way we reach out to the community.
I’m excited about virtual Pride because it provides access to queer, non-able-bodied people to participate in Pride, and they’ve been asking for that for years. So I’m not knocking other organizations, but if I see a need for my community, I’m going to find the right people to help me create that vision. All communities, queer and trans-people aren’t a monolith and I encourage everyone to celebrate Pride however they can and choose to.
Latta is a local artist and educator at Boise State. She works in mixed-media sculpture and has had her work included in permanent collections at various universities.
SL: When I think of Pride I always go back to Stonewall, the fact that we had to hide and that’s why Pride is a thing. Some people want to say, why don’t we have straight Pride? And it’s because you’ve never had to hide yourself; everyday is straight pride day. I mean Ellen came out in the 90s and she lost her job.
Now, it seems like trans-people are receiving an extra amount of resistance and I think when do they start coming more for all of us? We’ve only come a little way and it feels like slowly, those rights are being taken away.
We need to be out and present and make people’s sexual orientation a non-issue. People need to mind their own business. People are so into the idea of individual rights until they want to know someone’s sexual preference. You can’t refer to personal liberty and still want to be anti-gay. Because then it’s not about individuals, it’s about ideology.
I think Pride is about fellowship and community and coming pout and supporting people. I didn’t come out until I was 31 and didn’t have any sense of community until I did. There are benefits to virtual Pride in that people can participate without being in a crowd. It sounds, potentially, kind of fun. We have to be here for each other and what that means right now is showing up to vote. Because when will they start coming for the rest of us?