Seattle loves to bicker about every Goddamn thing, but apparently there’s one topic on which we’re generally in agreement: Pride’s boring. In our recent reader survey, we asked you to rate Seattle Pride on a one-to-five scale from “it’s perfect” to “it’s for heterosexuals,” and the results are in: You think Pride is absolutely mediocre. Most respondents gave it a three, and the vast majority of you rated it even lower.
And I mean … honestly ... is anyone surprised? I’ve been going to Prides since 1998-ish, all around the country and the world, and those results are about what I’d expect. The best Pride cities all have something special about them (y'know: boats, street parties, circuit parties, sex clubs, beaches) … but what have we got that’s so special? No wonder every Drag Race contestant from Seattle so far has either moved away or literally ceased to exist.
Fortunately, queers are nothing if not resourceful, and you responded to our survey with some extremely intriguing suggestions for fixing this sorry situation.
PROBLEM 1: THE PARADE IS TOO CORPORATE
This was one of the most frequent complaints, even though it wasn’t even mentioned on the survey — about a tenth of all respondents wrote in some variation on “too corporate.” A brief sampling:
- “Get rid of corporate sponsorships.”
- “Corporate floats go last, are not allowed to stop, and can only be in the parade with sponsorship from a Queer community org.”
- “Limit the size of corporate floats, group them together at the back, and disallow self-promotion - ie the Amazon LGBTQ employee group can march, but not be labeled with the Amazon logo anywhere, etc.”
- “if we can't get rid of corporate sponsors they should at least chill out a bit and let the focus be on actual queer organizations and people”
- “There get to be three and only three corporate floats, which will be granted to the three highest bidders. The money from the bidding war goes to fund local LGBTQ non profits and mutual aid for queer/trans people in the Seattle area who need it. Oh, and the three floats can only play music approved by a committee of drag artists, which means no “I Kissed A Girl and I Liked It” or other queer baiting trash.”
- “Excise literally all corporate and cishet influence.”
- “Pride shouldn't be an advertising opportunity."
Here’s my favorite suggestion: “Corporate floats go last, are not allowed to stop, and can only be in the parade with sponsorship from a Queer community orgs.”
Yes, yes, and YES to that. Who the fuck wants to see floats for T-Mobile and Wells Fargo? I want to see Entre Hermanos, BeautyBoiz, and Gay City — and I want to see them get paid.
Here’s what I propose: If a corporate entity wants to appear in the parade, they have to give money to, and be sponsored by, a local queer organization. Not only that, but the organization gets to design the float, and the corporate logo can’t be larger than the organization’s.
If a company balks at that, and says they don’t see the point in paying for a float if they can’t advertise their brand … well, did they even belong in Pride in the first place?
As one person wrote, the parade has become “WAY too corporate. Having participated with my employer, their comment of ‘keep in mind, you’re representing us’…..uh, no Mary, it’s the other way around.”
PROBLEM 2: NOT WEIRD ENOUGH
You’ll get no argument from me. Here’s what you had to say:
- “I want more Cherdonna, less RuPaul.”
- "I wanna see fire and skaters and punks and bikes and drum lines and hip hop. I’m so sick of the parade of cookie cutter speedos and lady gaga."
- "More live music, more dancing, more rainbow lights and body paint."
- "Launch 'keep kink out of pride' into the sun"
- "Group built floats. Think NOLA Krewe style."
- "Needs more dicks swinging, and strangers kissing."
- "Abolish the constructs of clothing"
- "I'd bring back the Mukilteo Fairies and the old queercore bands. Let them give “pride” a good ol' boot to the head."
- "Transplant the Solstice Parade and call it the Pride Parade. Poof! Fixed everything wrong with Seattle Pride."
Nobody responded that Pride needs to be more dignified, formal, or orderly. You want chaos. You want parties. You want it messy. You want it hot.
So how do we do that? This, I think, is the greatest challenge of all, because it really requires establishing a vibe and there’s no urban-planning science to that. Trying to force it will come off as pathetically desperate.
But there are party planners and nightlife pros who have solved this problem, albeit on a smaller scale. It’s time to enlist their help — the folks who program venues like Neumos, Kremwerk, Pony, and (RIP) Re-bar. I’ve seen parties at those places that would knock your socks off. It’s time to bring them out of the bars and into the streets, to make them all free (thanks, T-Mobile, you’re allowed to say that you paid for the party in 8-point font), and to leave space in between the official events so that guerilla parties and performances can pop up organically.
Take the money from corporate patrons, give it to event planners, and then just step back and let them do their thing.
But wait, where’s all that entertainment supposed to take place? Ah, that brings us to problem three:
PROBLEM 3: THE LOCATION STINKS
This one’s trickier — we’re never going to agree on the right location for Pride. “Do something by the water,” wrote one respondent. “Close off 5th and 6th Avenues, march to the Space Needle instead of ending at 2nd Ave N,” wrote another.
A lot of folks want it back on the Hill:
- “Honestly, the Broadway Pride Fest on Saturday is way more fun than the parade (although the fountain is awesome).”
- “The Friday of Pride Weekend is a city holiday and all of Capitol Hill is one big queer big party.”
- “Stop the competing prides, the one I love is the Broadway one with after parties in the street cafes. I love just lounging and people watching. Many close down at 10, why? These need to go until 3 am.”
- “Move the parade back to Broadway.”
Okay, sure, but I wasn’t sure how we fit everyone on Capitol Hill — Cal Anderson Park is nowhere near as spacious as Seattle Center. And then these three ideas all caught my eye:
- “Let everyone march in the parade without barricades.”
- “More street-level events along the parade route- live music, drag queens, jello shot vendors, etc.”
- “I'd put a cap over I-5, cover it with parks, and hold the parade there.”
Okay, hm. I think there’s something here. How about this:
In the short term, Pride is no longer a looooong parade that starts downtown and ends at the Space Needle. Instead, it’s a multi-neighborhood street fair. The “parade” becomes a march that anyone can participate in, from Downtown up Pike/Pine to Cal Anderson and then Volunteer Park. After the march, those streets remain closed to cars all day, filled with vendors, stages, and most of all, pedestrians.
That’ll do for the short term; but we’ll need a better long-term place for Pride, and I-5 is the perfect place. Seattle’s already talking about putting a giant lid on top of the freeway. Let’s do it. Let’s make it a world-class destination. And let’s call it Liberation Park. A permanent green space, connected to the Pike-Pine corridor, dedicated to freedom, justice, equality, and queer liberation.
PROBLEM 4: SEATTLE’S TOO EXPENSIVE
You’re probably not aware of this, but this city is PRICEY. It costs too much for interesting artists to live here, and it costs too much to travel here.
That’s not a Pride problem so much as an everyone, everyday problem. So what’s to be done? Ah, this one’s simple: Build. Build build build. End Seattle’s racist exclusionary downzoning that’s filled Seattle streets with single-occupant structures as if we’re fucking Puyallup instead of one of the largest cities in America. Build skyscrapers. Build mixed-use high-rises over transit, and them so tall you can’t see the top. Let developers double the size if they include affordable housing.
To make Pride better — more fun, more queer, more affordable — we need more people. You want a cheaper, better Pride? Great. Let’s build.
Obviously, making housing more plentiful will impact the city in ways beyond just one annual queer street party. Hey, what do you know: Turns out, liberation is good for everyone.