When Langley resident Claire Moore and her partner, Marsha Morgan, marched in their first Gay Pride Parades in 1976, they were spat on and cursed at; opposing passersby and picketers hurled items into the parade line.
Just seven years after the Stonewall Riots and six years after the very first Pride march, the LGBTQIA community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex and asexual) was still largely marginalized, sometimes even criminalized. According to Morgan, people were often fired from their jobs, making marching in a pride parade professionally risky.
At 2 p.m. on Sunday, the couple took to the street once more for a very different kind of pride parade: Langley’s first Queer Pride Parade. Instead of being cursed at, the couple and their fellow parade participants were cheered on. Instead of being spat on, marchers were greeted with solidarity and smiles as they made their way from Langley Middle School through downtown.
Moore, who was recently recognized as one of the original trailblazers in the LGBTQIA rights movement, said it was both fun and exhilarating.
“I felt supported by my community. We’ve been together for 26 years; we’re legally married,” Morgan said. “For us to have walked 40 years ago when you got cursed at, spit on, etc., to see all of this happen in our lifetimes is extraordinary.”
In an email to The Record, parade co-organizer Bonnie Stinson said she found marching in the parade to be a humbling experience, adding that she overheard a woman discussing the fact that such an event would not have been possible just 20 years ago, saying, “We would have been run out of town.”
“The first few-hundred feet we [Stinson and I] spent dancing and rejoicing. When we rounded the corner past the library and looked over First Street, my eyes welled up with happy tears,” said parade co-organizer Kathryn Morgen. “It was a sea of rainbows in the Village by the Sea.”
As for the choice of the word “queer,” Moore explained that, having come out 40 years ago, she has dealt with the negative connotation of the term for a large portion of her life. “In the long run, I think it is good to reclaim the word,” she said.
“I’m happy about it now because I see it as totally inclusive,” said Marsha Morgan. “It means everyone: no matter who you love, who you are, how you identify on the spectrum of sexuality, it means everybody and that is what I like about it.”
Moore said that, aside from a celebration of inclusivity and pride, she hopes the parade may offer kids who identify on the LGBTQIA spectrum to feel more safe and comfortable in the community. “I think that’s the work that still needs to be done,” said Morgan.
“I’m thrilled to be here,” said Rebecca Kushins of Issaquah who had just legally married her partner the day prior. The couple’s relatives came from as far away as Kentucky and Hawaii to attend the wedding and, afterward, the parade.
Kushins wasn’t the only one happy to have her family by her side.
“My mom, brother, and grandfather all made an appearance at the parade, and I shouted hello at so many familiar faces on First Street,” Stinson wrote. “Thank you, Whidbey, for welcoming me, accepting me, and making me feel at home.”
Stinson and Morgen said they intend to make the Queer Pride Parade an annual event and hope that next year it will be even bigger.
“We hope people will join us on this continued journey of celebrating the freedom to express our identities on this magical island,” wrote Morgen, in an email to The Record. “Thank you [supporters and participants] from the bottom of our hearts.”
Morgen added that community members may submit ideas for next year’s parade and learn more about the event at www.queerparade.com.