It happens every year, as regular as the arrival of colored beads and beer trucks: the bitching and finger-pointing among organizers of Seattle's Pride festivities. Given that this mammoth political/cruising event is organized largely by volunteers, perhaps some of the tantrums are understandable. Still, the annual angst production from this festival—which in the last few years has been broke, sued by the city, and riven by dissent about everything from parade routes to beer-garden locations—always seems to exceed everyone's expectations.
Don't get caught by surprise this year! Here's our complete, authoritative 2010 guide to all the hot-under-the-collar gay-organizer-on-gay-organizer action.
Name-calling: Did you know that at first, the theme for this year's Pride was going to be "We're All Americans"? But then controversy arose! "There were some of the more genderqueer elements of the community that wanted a more socialist/communist theme, based on what I could figure out," said Jon Mejia, a former board member for Seattle Out and Proud (SOAP), the group that organizes the downtown parade. Mejia has since resigned from the board (more on that later), but he says the fury from people who found the idea of us all being Americans too oppressive led to the current, more acceptable theme: "Over the Rainbow."
Trash-talking: Gerod Rody, executive director of the group Out for Sustainability, says most of his ideas for preventing "the horrendous amount of waste generated by this parade and festival" have been, well, thrown in the trash. "There's not the will or the time," Rody sighs. "I used to think, 'They're busy people, they're all volunteer, they're doing good work'—now I think it's just habit." His group is going to be out in force this year documenting the mountains of discarded handouts and product samples created by Pride, and he's campaigning for a "clean credit" program that would require Pride sponsors to pay for the waste they generate based on how recyclable it is. "Green gays," he says, should no longer be ignored. Even though they're currently being ignored. However! In one small triumph, beer gardens at PrideFest at Seattle Center this year will feature compost bins, says event organizer Egan Orion—and the beer cups will be made from corn-based, compostable plastic.
Separating: Mejia, the SOAP board member, resigned in February citing communication difficulties and a loss of faith in other board members. He claims seven other board members resigned around the same time and says he's glad to be done with the group's "long history of craziness." (Board president Eric Gauthier did not respond to requests for comment.) Meanwhile, Orion, the PrideFest organizer, has been creating his own distance. "I separated myself from the Seattle Pride trademark in a legal way this year," he said. "Because I was concerned about sort of a sinking-ship syndrome." While PrideFest, after three years of losing money, was finally profitable last year, both Mejia and Orion said they believe SOAP is still saddled with much of the huge debt—initially $120,000—that it ended up owing the City of Seattle after previous Pride debacles.