Nudity incident at Pride Fest brings questions: Editor's Note

So, I visited Pride Fest last Sunday at Seattle Center. For those of you not familiar with it, Pride Fest is Seattle’s celebration of sexuality, in all its facets. It’s a festival about acceptance of our fellow humans – whether those humans are older folks in North Face jackets, or a guy with a mohawk in a tutu. Given its subject matter, Pride Fest is a magnetic north pole for some folks, kryptonite for others.

So, I visited Pride Fest last Sunday at Seattle Center.

For those of you not familiar with it, Pride Fest is Seattle’s celebration of sexuality, in all its facets. It’s a festival about acceptance of our fellow humans – whether those humans are older folks in North Face jackets, or a guy with a mohawk in a tutu.

Given its subject matter, Pride Fest is a magnetic north pole for some folks, kryptonite for others.

I decided to go this year to see what it was all about. And, well, I had a free Sunday.

Don’t stop reading yet. This won’t be a laundry list of the drag queens I saw at the Fun Forest.

For the most part, it was what I thought it would be – people of all persuasions voicing their right to live and love how and who they choose.

But there is one person I would like to describe.

He was dressed in a skirt and a tank top, hanging out near the outdoor vendors. He was posing for photos with people in the crowd. He must have been my dad’s age.

As I walked past he was moving his skirt side to side as you would, doing a rumba. And then, without warning, he gleefully hiked the whole outfit up, exposing, well ... everything. And he kept the skirt up for a while, doing karate kicks.

It was repulsive, and there were kids around.

On the one hand, this was a public event drawing thousands, and I realize organizers can’t control everything. I also realize this fellow felt he had the right to express himself, although it clearly was indecent exposure.

But I think his choice and my reaction underscore a bigger issue. It’s one of the reasons the straight community sometimes balks at the gay community – and vice versa – and why moderate members of both start edging for the door, when their cohorts go off the deep end.

When someone’s actions are clearly over the top (or in this case, off the bottom) how are you supposed to react? Whose rights do you want to defend?

I realize this fellow wasn’t an official spokesperson for anyone. And who knows if he was even gay? But he jumped with both feet into the tired cliches straight critics love to point out about the gay community.

In one respect, I guess we all got equal treatment – his performance was in universally poor taste. So, in spite of being at Pride Fest, it was not a proud moment for anyone, straight or gay.

I realize being an American means having freedom of expression – it is the same liberty that enables me to operate as a member of a free press, and I’ll fight for that with everything I’ve got.

But when I see exhibitions like this, I worry the wording of that basic right may someday be altered. It would be from folks fed up with others choosing to sully that right in ways that are frankly stupid.

“Freedom to” may someday be changed to “freedom from.” It’s a small word change with a huge difference in meaning.

This Fourth of July, we need remember the rights we have as the greatest democracy on earth.

But keep in mind that freedom comes with a price. Your liberties are not supposed to infringe on mine, even if it's just to walk in a public place, enjoying a sunny day in Seattle.

Respect is a two-way street, even if you’re averse to wearing underwear.


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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He is a former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. Contact thebrunells@msn.com.
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