For decades, Phoenix Benner has joined the crowds in the Seattle Pride Parade, which last weekend marked its 43rd year. After a move to Snohomish County about a year ago, Benner looked for LGBTQ pride activities here.
“I found nothing,” said the 65-year-old Marysville resident, who took part in Sunday’s Seattle parade with the Northwest Two-Spirit Society.
“I’m the type of person, if you want something you make it happen,” Benner said. “That’s how it started.”
What Benner and others have started is the SnoHomo Pride Festival, a first-ever local event for LGBTQ people and their friends and allies. The free, family-friendly event is scheduled for 11 a.m.-5 p.m. July 23 at Everett’s Legion Memorial Park.
“This is finally happening, folks!” says a post on the event’s Facebook page.
About that event name — SnoHomo — organizers said don’t be shy about using it, though “homo” sounds to my outdated ear like a slur.
“I identify as homo. It just means homosexual,” said Adair Gearhart, 31, of Marysville. “It’s a word we’re reclaiming, like queer.”
Adair is a transgender man whose husband, Tiko Gearhart, also is involved with the upcoming festival. On Whidbey Island, annual Queer Pride events are scheduled for Aug. 11-13 in Langley.
Snohomish County’s first pride festival is meant to be fun, welcoming and entertaining, but also supportive and informative. It will include music, drag troupes, food, face and body painting, along with displays offering information about resources and LGBTQ-friendly businesses.
Among participants will be Everett/Snohomish PFLAG, the organization founded as Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; GLOBE Youth (GLBTQ Loving Ourselves, Becoming Empowered); QBASS (Queer Black Alliance of the South Sound); Entre Hermanos, The Everett Clinic and Cocoon House. Entertainment will range from Everett’s Trinity Episcopal Church choir to Drag Militia from Bellingham.
To help put on the event, Benner applied for a Pride Foundation grant. “There’s no way I could do it by myself. We needed a team to do all the work,” said Benner, who lived on Seattle’s Capitol Hill before moving north.
The upcoming festival “is basically acceptance of diversity in all its forms,” said Benner, whose ancestry is Cree First Nation from Ontario, Canada.
Female at birth, Benner said “I describe myself as a two-spirit person.” Twice in recent months, Benner traveled to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where tribes and others gathered to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“Two spirit” is a term widely used by indigenous people in North America to describe those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or gender-noncomforming in their communities. Sherman Alexie, a noted Native American author and one of the Seattle Pride grand marshals, walked with the Northwest Two-Spirit Society at the parade Sunday.
“A lot of this has to do with education,” said Tiko Gearhart, 35. And organizers said an LGBTQ pride event can’t come to Snohomish County soon enough.
“We exist. Representation matters. It’s about time,” Adair Gearhart said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Snohomish County’s first-ever LGBTQ pride event, SnoHomo Pride, is scheduled for 11 a.m.-5 p.m. July 23 at Legion Memorial Park, 145 Alverson Blvd., Everett. The festival will include music, drag troupes and other entertainment, information, face and body painting, food and more. A family-friendly event, it’s free and open to all. Learn more at: www.facebook.com/events/1857228257854090