By Ernest A. Jasmin, Puyallup Tribal News
Sequined drag performers, rainbow-colored bouncy houses and a fan favorite from NBC-TV’s “The Voice” took over the football field at Chief Leschi Schools on Saturday.
The occasion: The Puyallup Tribe’s fourth annual Pride celebration, a day for emphasizing love, acceptance and advances made by the LGBTQIA2 community in recent years.
Puyallup Tribal Councilwoman Annette Bryan reminded attendees that Washington had just introduced civil unions for same-sex couples in 2012, just three years before the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges made gay marriage legal nationwide.
“It wasn’t until recently that we were allowed to marry who we wanted to marry,” Bryan said. “We don’t take it for granted.”
Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Miller and Councilman James Rideout joined Bryan in offering the LGBT community support on behalf of Tribal Council.
“Every one of us are different in some way, shape or form,” Miller said. “When they call this Pride, that’s just what it is. Be proud. Be proud of who you are.”
“People created this change to have the opportunity to identify as who they want to be identified as,” Rideout added.
Speakers also included Tacoma Police Deputy Chief Paul Junger, Washington State LGBT Commission Executive Director Manny Santiago and Clinton McCloud, who led Tribal members in singing an affecting rendition of “The Power Song.”
Then there was Chris Briden from the Tribe’s Language Department who shared what he had learned by researching Lushootseed words denoting sexual orientation.
“What we suspect is that our ancestors didn’t find it necessary to classify people that way,” Briden said. “Instead of saying gay, they said, uncle or brothers or whatever. It just wasn’t a necessary thing for them to classify people like we have to do today.”
Soon after, popular Tacoma singer-songwriter Stephanie Anne Johnson kicked off the entertainment portion of the afternoon. Best known as a member of Team Xtina on season five of “The Voice,” Johnson began her acoustic set with a cover of “Rainbow,” a hit for country singer Kacey Musgraves.
Then what would a Pride celebration be without drag performers? Charli Foxtail “slayed,” leaping into dynamic splits that might have snapped a lesser performer like a wishbone. Cherri Bepsi commanded the dance floor in radiant yellow and pink outfits; and Hailey Tayathy told a traditional Quileute story about betrayal, punctuating the dramatic parts with interpretive dance.
Towards the end of the festival, a few attendees were asked to share their thoughts about what Pride meant to them for a chance to be elected to the Royal Court. It was then that teen contestant Ava Richotte put the day’s festivities into poignant focus, acknowledging friends who had recently come out.
“Both of them have been facing a lot of hate and criticism, especially from their parents,” Richotte said. “I just really want to dedicate this to them. … I just want to tell them that you are loved, you are accepted.”