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Washington's 2008 Pride season kicks off in Centralia
Washington's 2008 Pride season kicks off in Centralia
by John Griffin - SGN Contributing Writer

It was a cool, cloudy afternoon at Centralia College on Wednesday, but the warm, friendly atmosphere created by the GSA at the college and all of the people who came out to celebrate their second annual Gay Pride made it seem like a very bright day. There was no conservative protest to cast a shadow on the fun, affirmative ambience.

Our arrival was planned a little early to help us get our bearings, but we had no trouble finding the right place. The clock tower, dedicated to cultural diversity, looms over a large open space adjacent to the library and student center, and already a few people were gathering there in anticipation of the event. I had my Gay Pride flag unfurled to make it obvious what we were looking for, and soon one of the organizers invited us to take one of the tables and spread out our material. I used stacks of Seattle Gay News to hang my flag on the front of the table and encouraged people to help themselves while I asked the various exhibitors and celebrants to comment on the event.

A former student in festive garb and makeup, Brandon Berlin, who remains active at the college, emphasized the backlash against the momentous developments in California as he commented on their own Pride. "I think this is a wonderful thing. Lewis County is a very conservative county, to have any kind of Pride here is a Godsend for a lot of people," he said. "It brings together a community that's really small, and growing."

Andrea Olmstead of the Human Response Network, which provides services for any individual who has been the victim of a crime, said, "It's too bad it has to be a special [event; we] should all be the same. I'm just really glad that services are available in our community for anyone, no matter what nationality, no matter what gender, no matter what, we're here for people, and all people should be treated equal. That's part of living in the United States. It seems basic, but it's not."

Dora Hobson of the Students Against Domestic Violence said, "It's pretty sad that it should take a special event to bring it off, it should be a year 'round thing. & You've got & Domestic [Violence] Awareness Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Does that mean it only happens those months? No, it happens all the time."

Joseph Robinson of C.H.A.N.G.E. (Citizens Helping A New Generation Evolve) said, "I fight against the oppression of all different types of people. I can see that, throughout history, the GLBT community has been oppressed. I'm just out here in solidarity with all oppressed people. I'm for the freedom of individuals to lead the kind of lifestyles they want to."

PFLAG had a very good representative faction. Among them were Gib and Beth Rossing, who were also representing the United Churches of Olympia. "The United Churches seek to be open and affirming. Our litany that we say every Sunday is whoever you are, wherever you are, you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."

Jennifer, Mr. Gay Lewis County, said, "Every little event that we have like this is a step forward to belonging, and coming together as a community." Ricky Outumuro, Miss Gay Lewis County, said, "I am who I am, and I'm proud of it. You have the choice to be ashamed or taking a lot of pride in who you are. & I honestly think I work hard enough that I should be proud of myself and take pride in who I am."

Among the speakers that addressed the crowd was Dr. Michael Grubiak, who gave a moving account of his personal experience with a close friend who lived as a Gay man, but could never come out despite the many experiences that parallel the lives of so many that we have all known - the long solitude which finally ended with a special friendship with a man who served his country as an officer in the Armed Forces, also silent about the truth of his own life. Introducing his friend to his family, who liked and accepted him as a friend, but never knew the unspoken truth. He told how the friend attended to the needs of his friend after he was savagely beaten and hovered near death. The final chapter of the anonymous friend's story was the most familiar, how his health declined and how he died, still silent about the whole truth of his situation, and silently put to rest by the church that never knew that truth, and going to the God with whom he could finally and honestly abide. Dr. Grubiak concluded his address with these words: "Today we come together to acknowledge celebrate a simple truth of what it means to be human, and that simple truth is this: We are all different and we are all the same. If, by today's events, we can help create a community in which people are no longer afraid and where we can share and thereby celebrate the joys that come into our lives, that we can share, heal, or lessen the pain that comes into our lives, that each of us can fully live and share the truth that is our lives, then today's efforts are worth it. Today we celebrate the differences with which each person enriches the world, and in so doing we embrace and celebrate the truth that is all our lives."

Dr. Don Foran spoke on the subject of non-violent action. He quoted an article by Glenn Anderson that addressed the traditional responses of fight or flight to any challenge. He offered what has become the third and civilized response to any challenge: Instead of reacting with violence or reacting in fear to the assaults that life faces us with, we have learned that we have non-violence as an alternative, and that we must always remember it and use it whenever possible. It disarms the aggressor in a way that a violent reaction never can, and avoids reinforcing the attitude that aggression can accomplish a desired result that running away from a problem never will.

Jeremy Miller of Olympia Hemp Fest said, "There's no reason that we should live in a free country and not actually be free. It's kind of pitiful when you think about it, but here we dealing with it, and making the best out of it, and trying to steal back our rights one by one."

The Master of Ceremonies was Mark "Mom" Finley, a Centralia native himself. He seemed a little uncomfortable out of drag, but carried things off with his usual good sense of humor. Everyone laughed at his hilarious presentation of his own childhood and school days there. The story could just as easily brought tears to the listeners' eyes as he related how his class, including the teacher, had chanted "Faggot Finley." He said he was called to the office and blamed for the incident because he was too "flamboyant."

Dr. Jody Peterson reminded us of the ideals that our nation was founded on freedom with the words of Thomas Jefferson, speaking of the equality of all. She extended the application of Jefferson's statement on religious freedom, "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg&.". She asked, "Does it really, really matter what people do in the privacy of their own homes? & What is wrong with you if the only thing you can be fixated on is what people can do in the privacy of their own bedrooms? What is wrong with your life if you have to care about that? This is America & it's supposed to be the beacon, it's supposed to be the light, it's supposed to be the flame." It was a great day for Gay Pride, and we were reminded of a lot of important ideas. I would like to remind my readers of another important fact of history, but I will no doubt be teaching most people about the most crucial event in the history of democracy.

In ancient times Athens was ruled by a despot known as Hippias. He had a brother, Hipparchus. Hipparchus loved a boy named Harmodius, who, according to Thucydides, "was then in the flower of youthful beauty." Harmodius was apprenticed to the warrior Aristogeiton. Hipparchus used the political influence of his brother to take Harmodius away from Aristogeiton. This was too much for the warrior to bear. He organized his comrades and overthrew the government. The warriors then decided that they were through being ruled by a despot and established the system of electing leaders from the ranks of the free citizens - that is to say the warrior class. Democracy itself was born out of a homosexual love affair. When we fight for our rights, it isn't to win them, but to restore them. Ironically in Athens today, Aristogeiton Street is lined with confectioners.

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