As pandemic ebbs, Seattle’s Pride gets back to its roots

 ‘Make it radical and queer, and not all Starbucks and Walmart’ became an unofficial theme this year.

Attendees dance during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. Thousands turned out for a day of food and music and celebration of BIPOC trans and queer communities. (All photos by Genna Martin for Crosscut)

Pride weekend felt different this year in Seattle. Different from 2020, of course, when the coronavirus pandemic made celebration impossible. But also different from what Pride has become in recent years, a choreographed set of events centered on the large, increasingly corporate Seattle Pride parade. 

Roswell Valentine poses for a portrait as she waits for the Trans Pride March to begin, Friday, June 25, 2021.

Roswell Valentine poses for a portrait as she waits for the Trans Pride March to begin, Friday, June 25, 2021.

Demonstrators yell and gesture as they pass the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct building during the Trans Pride March, Friday, June 25, on Capitol Hill.

Demonstrators yell and gesture as they pass the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct building during the Trans Pride March, Friday, June 25, on Capitol Hill.

With most Pride events occurring virtually last weekend, Seattle’s LGBTQ community returned to its roots, celebrating with smaller, purposeful events scattered across the city. Many saw this year’s celebration as a rebirth of the annual celebration, and hope the shift continues in the years ahead.

“The less corporate the better,” said Roswell Valentine, who joined Friday evening’s Trans Pride March. “We are in a position to take Pride and make it radical and queer, and not all Starbucks and Walmart.”

At that march, there was not an Amazon or Alaska Airlines logo in sight as several dozen demonstrators marched through Seattle’s Capitol Hill, chanting, “Trans rights now!,” “Fall of capitalism!” and “House the houseless!”

Left: People wait for the Trans Pride March to begin, Friday, June 25, on Capitol Hill. Right: Brianna Smith talks with friends on the patio at Queer/Bar on Capitol Hill, Sunday afternoon, June 27, during Pride celebrations. 

Left: People wait for the Trans Pride March to begin, Friday, June 25, on Capitol Hill. Right: Brianna Smith talks with friends on the patio at Queer/Bar on Capitol Hill, Sunday afternoon, June 27, during Pride celebrations. 

Zende Monet, right, hugs B3ntl3y Walker after they competed in the ball held during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. 

Zende Monet, right, hugs B3ntl3y Walker after they competed in the ball held during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. 

Jeans Robles, center, and Aries Monet, right, watch performers vogue at a ball during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park. 

Jeans Robles, center, and Aries Monet, right, watch performers vogue at a ball during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park. 

Bars and restaurants, some opening for the first time in over a year, were at capacity as high vaccination rates emboldened people to get out again. Saturday featured what became one of the largest events of the weekend, Taking B(l)ack Pride, a celebration centered on the Black and brown trans community and queer communities of color generally. Thousands braved the intense heat to party at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District at the event, which culminated in a raucous ball where exquisitely dressed participants vogued for a panel of judges and a cheering crowd.

An attendee wears a colorful bow in their hair during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. 

An attendee wears a colorful bow in their hair during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. 

Sydney Menjivar and Jaylynn Malone share a kiss in the crowd during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. 

Sydney Menjivar and Jaylynn Malone share a kiss in the crowd during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. 

The event drew some controversy after organizers announced they would encourage white attendees to pay a “reparations fee.” 

“There is a lot of money in Seattle and specifically in the yearly ‘Prideifying’ many businesses and orgs and restaurants often do,” event organizer Mattie Mooney said by instant message. “Many of these same orgs, businesses, restaurants and large corporations seem to be getting rich off of Pride every year, while BIPOC LGBTQ folks face many different socioeconomic barriers as a result of their identities.”

“At Taking B(l)ack Pride, we laughed, we cried, we nearly melted from the heat, but folks showed up in DROVES,” Mooney continued. “Being able to be free and find empowerment amongst people that look like you as a Black or Brown person is such a spiritual and healing experience.”

Several dozen people march in the Trans Pride March, Friday, June 25, on Capitol Hill.

Several dozen people march in the Trans Pride March, Friday, June 25, on Capitol Hill.

Capitol Hill Pride, though smaller than past years, drew hundreds to Cal Anderson Park to hear speakers and performers over the weekend. Nearby, Levi Daney and Izzy Rivas ate Sunday brunch at a packed Queer/Bar as drag queens worked the room. “I like [Pride] better this way,” Daney said. “It’s more chill and laid-back.”

In part to support LGBTQ businesses struggling after the pandemic, Pride revelry is expected to continue into July as the state fully reopens. Seattle Pride is planning a two-day, in-person celebration in October for National Coming Out Day.

Left: Attendees tip performer and event MC Ms. Briq House during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. Right: B3ntl3y Walker watches performances during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. 

Left: Attendees tip performer and event MC Ms. Briq House during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. Right: B3ntl3y Walker watches performances during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. 

Nefi Atherley puts on makeup before participating in the ball held during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. 

Nefi Atherley puts on makeup before participating in the ball held during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District. 

Several dozen people make their way down Pine Street in the Trans Pride March, Friday, June 25, on Capitol Hill.

Several dozen people make their way down Pine Street in the Trans Pride March, Friday, June 25, on Capitol Hill.

Avery Noir, center, walks in a ball fashion competition during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District.

Avery Noir, center, walks in a ball fashion competition during the Taking B(l)ack Pride event, Saturday, June 26, at Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District.

Matthew Winder and Brianna Smith hang out on the patio at Queer/Bar in Capitol Hill, Sunday afternoon during Pride celebrations.

Matthew Winder and Brianna Smith hang out on the patio at Queer/Bar in Capitol Hill, Sunday afternoon during Pride celebrations.

About the Authors & Contributors

Genna Martin

Genna Martin is a visual storyteller and documentary photographer