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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Getting visible during Pride while humming an ‘80s tune

Jill Wagner Correspondent

On this first day of Spokane’s Pride Week, I can’t help but smile at the cheery entreaty to “Let’s Get Visible.” The slogan brings to mind Olivia Newton John’s 1981 hit single “Let’s Get Physical,” and I find myself singing the tune in my head, bopping around the living room.

The lineup of happenings for the week is so vast, especially compared to recent years, that I suspect many in the LGBTQ community are giddy with the choices. To plan where and when you might spend the next several afternoons or evenings, check out the events information on page 28 or visit www.outspokane.com for a printable calendar. Many of the events are free or accessible for less than $10, offering us a chance to gather as a community at Spokane landmarks – the Big Easy Concert House, the Garland Theatre, Northern Quest Casino – more typically populated by a mixed, if not predominantly straight, crowd.

There’s a lot to this idea of community. Critics say Pride events or restaurants, bars and business districts catering to a largely gay population are a way to isolate ourselves from the very society from which we seek equality. I used to agree.

For several years in San Diego I rented a fabulous apartment one block from the four-lane street turned into the Pride parade route each July. Tens of thousands of people watch the parade, and there I was situated with a front row seat. The first two years I avoided the whole weekend, choosing to go out of town. The third year, I stayed in my apartment, even while friends were happily gathered a block away. I just couldn’t handle the idea of being so visible.

But visible to whom? To hundreds of other gays and lesbians? Where’s the problem in that? By parading around town, my compatriots were drawing what I considered unnecessary attention. Why bring attention to myself when all I really wanted was to be considered an average Jill working, living in my hometown and loving my significant other like anyone else?

What I know now is that community erases the feeling of being utterly alone. In our birth families we are often the only one not married, the quiet one who avoids conversations about the ideal date, the only one who hides photos when relatives visit or rents a two bedroom apartment with our “roommate” when all we really need is a more affordable one-bedroom.

Gathering with other LGBTQ folk to do something as fun as watch a midnight movie, play bingo or cruise around Lake Coeur d’Alene is comforting and comfortable. The sheer number of movie watchers or bingo players remind us we are not the fringe of society, rather a colorful patch in the quilt that is American life. When we come together publicly, we give ourselves a little bit of what straight people enjoy every day. Widespread, heartfelt acceptance.

With Olivia Newton John providing the background music, sure, I’ll get visible this week. Just don’t expect big hair or a sweatshirt with a cutout neck falling off my shoulders.

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