Published on July 9th, 2014 | by Brook Ellen West


Pride in Tacoma

At 1:20 am on a Saturday in a Manhattan bar the music stopped, lights flicked on, doors were barricaded, and policemen entered shouting, “Police! We’re taking the place!” Men were asked to show their identification and anyone dressed as a woman was taken to the bathroom where an officer would inspect their genitals to verify gender.

It wasn’t the first time this had happened but on June 28, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn wanted it to be the last.

Photo by Henry Waymack

Photo by Henry Waymack

The people resisted, a crowd gathered, and their retaliation is known to history as the Stonewall Riots—the catalyst that ignited the civil rights movement for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The anniversary of their bravery is recognized every summer in the form of Pride festivals in cities all over the world, including Tacoma.

“This is a chance for people to come together and become part of an all-inclusive community celebration,” says Lisa Fruichantie, Event and Development Coordinator for the Rainbow Center, the leading organization behind Tacoma Pride Festival. “Tacoma Pride Festival provides the foundation of multiple events exclusively focused as a space to celebrate LGBTQA community in Pierce County.”

The fourth annual Tacoma Pride Festival combines music, films, parties, and a host of community-produced festivities into a six-day celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and allied (LGBTQA) presence. The event offers visibility to a marginalized group of people and invites all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to be one’s self in the absence of shame.

“Support has been great,” says Fruichantie. “Pride Fest is actually a city sponsored event, which is incredible for a marginalized community.”

It’s clear the diversity of Pride supporters mirrors the diversity being celebrated. In addition to the City of Tacoma, several Tacoma businesses and organizations participate as producing partners for Pride events, including the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Pride Foundation, MPowerment Tacoma, the Grand Cinema, Pierce County Aids Foundation, Oasis Youth Center, Drunken Telegraph, The Mix, and the Rainbow Center.

“Pride Fest has exploded,” Fruichantie says in reference to the increased number of sponsors and people wanting to participate in this year’s Pride. She attributes this burst of interest in part to Washington’s passing of Referendum 74 for Marriage Equality and The Advocate naming Tacoma as America’s gayest city in 2013. “We had ten thousand people attend Pride in 2013 and expect to have even more this year.”

The festival kicks off at 4:30pm on Friday, July 11, at the Pantages Theater lobby with words from Mayor Marilyn Strickland about the importance of Pride, a presentation of the Pride Foundation Rainbow Awards, and the ceremonial rainbow flag raising over City Hall. This event is free and invites attendees to linger in the lobby for eats from Jonz Catering, and drinks will be available for purchase.

Pride Fest is in full swing just a few hours later when the first LGBTQ storytellers take the stage at Immanuel Presbyterian Church. Co-produced by one of the leading storytelling forces in Tacoma, Drunken Telegraph, a line-up of storytellers will share true, personal stories about faith, religion, and spirituality during Crossing the Threshold: LGBTQ Stories of Spirit.

OITP Headliner Performers Promo

Stephanie Anne Johnson, Kim Archer, Jack Mozie, and DARIO are a few of the featured performers at Out in the Park, Saturday, July 12, noon-5pm on Broadway between 9th and 11th

On Saturday, head downtown for Pride’s biggest event, Out in the Park, a family-friendly outdoor celebration that has existed in some form for over twenty years. Broadway will be blocked off between 9th and 11th for street side vendor booths and live musical acts featured on the main stage at Pierce Transit Park. The pop singer DARIO is the 2014 headliner and will take the stage at 2 o’clock.

“We want there to be something for everyone,” Fruichantie says. The variety of events programmed for Tacoma Pride Festival represent different access points to understanding LGBTQ issues, and this multi-layered visibility “gives people an opportunity to experience Pride while doing something they enjoy.”

From the Stonewall Riots of 1969, to Washington’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2012, to the ongoing efforts to eliminate discrimination that will lead to more historic moments on the path to equality—there is still work to be done. Work that requires devotees and advocates, and Pride festivals are important spaces, creating interactive pathways to awareness and support of the queer community.

But after all, a festival is a celebration. Shakespeare festivals celebrate iambic pentameter, music festivals celebrate rhythm, lentil festivals celebrate legumes, and the Tacoma Pride Festival celebrates the fortitude of human dignity.

“Pride cultivates enthusiasm through celebration and recognition of who we are without shame,” says Fruichantie. “It is a chance for individual connection to understanding the momentum of the global queer movement toward non-discrimination and acceptance.”

Mix's Block Party 2014Tacoma Pride events

Friday, July 11

4:30 pm: Flag raising ceremony – Pantages Theater Lobby

7:30 pm: Crossing the Threshold: LGBTQ Stories of Spirit – Immanuel Presbyterian Church

Saturday, July 12

Noon – 5 pm: Out in the Park – on Broadway between 9th and 11th

4 pm – 2 am: Coconize – A Gay Stride concert on St. Helens

5 pm-4 am: The Mix’s 6th Annual Pride Block Party

Sunday, July 13

6-8:30 pm: Proud Outloud – Stadium High School Performing Arts Center

PrintMonday-Wednesday, July 14-16

2 pm & 7 pm: Tacoma Pride Film Series – the Grand Cinema

Wednesday, July 16

8 pm: Closing Reception hosted by MPowerment and the Grand Cinema

9 pm: “Wrap It Up” – The Mix

Visit for a complete schedule of events.


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About the Author

Brook Ellen West received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry before turning her life around to become a writer. Her poem Is Anyone Normal? was read aloud during an elementary school assembly.

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