Seattle commemorates National Coming Out Day
Community leaders, politicians and business owners gathered at Seattle City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 7, to commemorate National Coming Out Day.
The City of Seattle LGBTQ Employees Association, the Seattle Public Utilities LGBTQ and Friends Affinity Group organized the event, which took place four days before the official National Coming Out Day due to a city employee scheduled on Monday, Oct. 11. Aleksa Manila emceed the event, which opened with Arnaldo's lyrical stylings. Drag chanteuse and Seattle's own piano man, Victor Janusz, accompanied.
Seattle LGBTQ Commission Chair Christopher Peguero pointed out National Coming Out Day's importance. Julie Nelson, director of the Seattle Office of Civil Rights, spoke about the city's support for LGBT rights that stretch back to the 1970s.
Nelson, who has worked for the city for more than 20 years and worked on behalf of many organizations for race and social justice, shared a personal story about a job selection board where the conversation began to stray from her qualifications to whether or not she was a lesbian. "Since this is National Coming Out Day, I am proud to stand here today and tell you that I identify as a bisexual woman," she said. "I've had meaningful and happy relationships with both women and men."
Louise Chernin, executive director of the Greater Seattle Business Association, which is the largest LGBT chamber of commerce in the country, spoke about the need for services in the Emerald City. She appealed to Seattle's LGBT residents to "demand that the city of Seattle provide resources and social services for our community". She also challenged them to take a look at providing protections for LGBT seniors and to proactively pursue the planning and building of a LGBT community center.
George Bakan, chief editor and publisher of Seattle Gay News, used the podium to issue a call to action in supporting the many local services-Safe Schools Coalition, Youth Suicide Prevention Program, OUTLoud-that work towards making Seattle schools safe for LGBT teenagers in the wake of the recent rash of suicides that have caught the nation's attention over the past few weeks. "We must wipe away our tears and turn our sorrow into action," said Bakan. "There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Many of these organizations are doing great work but could use our help in raising funds for them to continue the important outreach they provide to LGBT teens across Washington State."
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn told attendees the city fully supports its LGBTQ Employee's Association. "We are making progress in the fight for LGBT equality," he said. "Although there is still a great deal left to achieve, we can say that as a city, we are moving forward in the right direction."
Transgender activist Marsha Botzer, who sits on the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Board of Directors, also spoke.
"Know your history," she said. "Educate yourself and get others involved to illuminate our movement."
The last speaker of at the event, openly lesbian City Councilmember Sally Clark reiterated Chernin's call for the city to provide social services and resources for the inter-sectional parts of the LGBT community.