Reclaiming Pride: After Orlando, pride means something different in Eugene
After the mass shooting earlier this summer in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub that left 49 people dead and 53 injured, Bill Sullivan had “flashbacks.”
Sullivan, a Eugene resident, and LGBTQ activist, said he recalled when a New Orleans bar called the UpStairs Lounge was attacked by an arsonist in a massacre that killed 32 people in 1973. It was the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community — until earlier this summer.
“Orlando was a wake up for a lot of people,” said Sullivan, who serves on the board of directors for the Eugene PRIDE Day Equality project, the organizers behind this weekend’s 25th annual Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival. “It’s still happening. It’s not just a one-time event.”
Other members of the LGBTQ community are feeling this sentiment as Eugene prepares to host several pride events this week.
Despite June being LGBT Pride Month, many pride events around the country are shuffled around the summer due to the fact that availability is scarce in June. Because Oregon has several pride events around the state — in Portland, Salem, Bend, southern Oregon, coastal Oregon, Corvallis and Eugene to name several — it’s hard to fit them all into one month, Sullivan said.
Sullivan coordinated the second annual Eugene/Springfield Quing — queen and king — Pride Pageant at HiFi Music Hall on Saturday night.
That night, the Eugene LGBTQ community kicked off a week of festivities to celebrate one of Eugene’s more vibrant communities.
Standing in platform high heels, skyscraper wigs and bright flowing dresses, a collection of drag queens towered over the crowd, shouting cat calls at each other from across the outdoor patio.
One of those people is Morgan Andersen, a local who’s made a name for himself by his drag queen persona Angelica D’Vil. Andersen said friends of his asked if he still wanted to host events as D’Vil, which puts him in the limelight as queer.
He said yes.
“The biggest mistake we can make as a community is to stay quiet and pretend these things didn’t happen,” Andersen said. “I’m not going to dumb down who I am or what I believe in just because of living in a state of fear that people don’t like who I am or what I stand for.”
“Eugene Pride, this year, will definitely be more powerful,” said Sam Thrower, who was crowned the first ever Quing in 2015 and performed at Saturday’s Pageant. “People just want to be more together now.”
One onlooker at HiFi was Camille Vaden. Vaden was a drag queen himself for thirty years, and the scene on Saturday was something he could only dream of when he was growing up in Las Vegas in the 1970s.
“Now it is a little easier for people,” Vaden said. “I think we are strong enough in our number to not let that fear overtake us.”
This weekend’s Pride Festival will take place from noon to 6 p.m. in Alton Baker Park on Saturday, Aug. 13. The event is all ages and free, though there is a $5 suggested donation.
This Friday, The Wayward Lamb pub will host the Downtown Pride Block Party, which will block off Broadway from Charnelton street to Olive street from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. D’Vil will host both the block party and the subsequent after-party in the Lamb from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
UO graduate student Jesse Quinn has attended many Pride Festivals in Eugene and Springfield since he was a student at Pleasant Hill High School. Quinn created a Gay Straight Alliance at his high school after attending the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival.
“It was pretty instrumental in my coming out,” said Quinn, program assistant for the UO LGBT Education Support Services. “Having an event here in Eugene that’s open to the community was extremely beneficial, at least to my own self-discovery.”
After attending Portland Pride in the days following the Orlando tragedy, Quinn said he felt a lingering sense of fear in the air — but it was therapeutic at the same time.
“We could process these emotions together,” Quinn said.
Quinn attends the annual festival every year representing the LGBT Education and Support Services, as well as community groups such as the Queer Community Center of Eugene. He says he’s excited for this year, given the balance between the family-friendly festival in the park and the more party-oriented downtown block party.
“Seeing youth involved at these events is always encouraging because I feel like we’re making the next wave of LGBT activists,” he said.
Andersen is from Pomona, California, outside Los Angeles, where the queer scene is focused on a long strip of gay bars. Eugene’s pride events are different than most. It’s more about community here, Andersen said.
“Most pride events don’t make me feel proud as a gay person,” he said. “I don’t necessarily see the point of being proud of being belligerently drunk on the street.”
When Andersen first attended Eugene’s pride festival last year, he saw something totally different.
“It’s so much more about a community getting together and supporting each other,” Andersen said. “That really spoke volumes, to me, about what the real LGBTQ community is, and what it means to have pride.”
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