Courtesy photo United Christian Church in Renton.

Courtesy photo United Christian Church in Renton.

Renton has Pride, finally

After many years of little events, the city and local groups create Pride events

Pride month has finally come to Renton.

A rainbow flag will rise in front of Renton City Hall June 17 to 23. Positive developments in queer visibility are starting to take shape in the city, both from local government and Rentonites on social media, as momentum is starting for a June 2020 pride event.

For the first time, Renton is raising the Pride Flag and proclaiming June as Pride Month. Mayor Denis Law called the proclamation in his newsletter last week “long overdue.”

The pride flag was donated by Plateaupians for Peace, a Sammamish nonprofit dedicate to promoting inclusivity.

According to a post on the nonprofit’s Facebook page, Renton Deputy Public Affairs Administrator Preeti Shridhar thanked the group for prompting her to ask the question that ultimately resulted in creating a Pride Month proclamation for the city.

The flag will be raised from June 17 to June 23.

This is Renton’s second proclamation for LGBTQ+ folks. It’s the first to mention queer identities. Renton’s first proclamation for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender individuals was in September 2014, for South King County Gay Pride day, in partnership with other cities.

Renton resident Chad Cashman-Crane said it’s a good representation of a progressive city responding to folks in Renton becoming more visible.

“Even thought it’s just a symbolic gesture it’s a significant advancement from where we have been,” he said.

Creating visibility from within

Renton residents have also been creating more visibility for the LGBTQ+ folks in the city, through social media. The hope is to coordinate Renton’s first pride parade for June 2020.

Cashman-Crane spearheaded the social media push. He moved to Renton two years ago, after living in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, when it got too pricey.

Cashman-Crane said he noticed surrounding cities were looking at pride events, and had felt isolated in Renton after living in an area with lots of events catered to his community. Then he saw various posts on social media ask the same questions about where Pride events were in Renton.

“I realized there must be energy out there,” Cashman-Crane said.

So he put together a page, “Renton LGBTQ Network,” on Facebook. Within the week they had over 100 members. He said there was a lot of excitement about a pride event for Renton.

Cashman-Crane said he hopes to create a festival for June 2020 that will be a park party with drag, bingo and other activities that can interest all age groups, from families to adults. He’s hoping it can be hosted at Gene Coulon Memorial Park or possibly Liberty Park, but they still need to get permitting.

“We want it to be a thing where everyone can access it, everyone feels comfortable to be themselves and everyone has something to be entertained by,” Cashman-Crane said.

He’s organizing events monthly or every two weeks for all folks to come coordinate next year’s event. They’ve had one meeting so far, the next is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 18. More information is available by joining the Renton LGBTQ Network Facebook group.

The Mayor’s Inclusion Task Force member representing LGBTQ+ community, Kevin Poole, was told about the Facebook page. Poole said he is looking forward to using it to get more input to bring back to the task force.

Poole has been on the task force since 2015, and stated in an email there hasn’t been a visible community — until now.

“With the city’s new embrace of Pride Month and the new Renton LGBTQ Network group on Facebook, it appears I will now have the opportunity to share the concerns of a much broader cross section of LGBTQ residents with the task force and the City in general, which is a very positive development,” he stated in an email.

Poole created a poll in the resource page asking members what their greatest concerns were. The most votes were for having specific venues in Renton.

Cashman-Crane also said he would like to see businesses pick up the baton and carry out events dedicated to the community, like queer nights at a bar or other social events. He said even a monthly event where he can meet neighbors who share his beliefs and issues would be less isolating.

“Sure there might be businesses with the flag,” he said. “But you don’t know if it’s a gay-specific bar or somewhere that LGBTQ+ people like to meet.”

Other top-voted concerns were fostering relationships with other marginalized communities in the city, feeling safe in their neighborhood as a LGBTQ+ resident and making sure law enforcement is sensitive to the community’s issues.

Cashman-Crane also said he’d like to see what work local police do on sensitivity training, but in general feels the Puget Sound area has set the standard for what a more equal society would look like for LGBTQ+ folks.

He said there’s been different types of posts on the page about the pride festival, what the community wants to see in Renton and including a photo circulating on Facebook of a recent display of welcome from a local church.

The United Christian Church in Renton recently propped up six rainbow doors reading “God’s doors are open to all!” Minister Cynthia Meyer, who started at the Church in November after serving in Kansas, said this was one of the first clear, bold messages of their welcome.

“The church has a history of that commitment, but hasn’t been quite so bold to making a statement like this,” Meyer said.

Someone passing by on their bike saw the doors being put up, Meyer said, and they stopped to thanked them. She said they’ve received almost all positive feedback.

The display is a movement started by another United Church of Christ on the East Coast. There’s now a website where churches will post photos of their displays at godsdoors.org.

Other events this month:

Renton History Museum hosted a Pride Flag workshop, that had folks as far as Olympia and Gig Harbor come to attend on Saturday, June 8.

Museum Public Engagement Coordinator Kate Dugdale said it was a great turnout, in the morning they’d already had about 17 people in there making flags, with a variety of colors representing different facets of the flag: transgender, non-binary, pan-sexual and several other flag types.

One person created a rainbow 20-sided die on the center of their pride flag, a nod at the museum’s current Dungeons and Dragons exhibit: Hero’s Feast.

“I love museums and libraries, they’re always the gayest places in a city,” one of the attendees said at the event, referencing the inclusivity at these spaces. Later that day, King County Library hosted a Pride party.

More upcoming events at the King County library include a screening of “Love, Simon” at 4 p.m., June 17 at Renton Highlands Library and a screening of “The Trans List” at 3 p.m., June 23 at Fairwood library. There’s also a family program, “Drag Queen Story Hour,” 7 to 8 p.m., June 27 at Fairwood Library.

King County Library is also hosting a pride celebration designed by teens, for teens, at 1 to 7 p.m., June 22, at the downtown Renton library. More information is available here.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Attendees who traveled from Gig Harbor, Hanna, Sophi Day and Richie Ohlson, making art at the Pride Flag Workshop, Saturday, June 8 at Renton History Museum.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. Attendees who traveled from Gig Harbor, Hanna, Sophi Day and Richie Ohlson, making art at the Pride Flag Workshop, Saturday, June 8 at Renton History Museum.

Attendees making art at the Pride Flag Workshop, Saturday, June 8 at Renton History Museum.
                                Photo by 
Haley Ausbun

Attendees making art at the Pride Flag Workshop, Saturday, June 8 at Renton History Museum. Photo by Haley Ausbun

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