Thousands of people filled downtown Seattle for the pride parade Sunday.
This year’s celebration came in the wake of a mass murder at an Orlando gay nightclub.
The pride parade is a time to celebrate the truth about who people are, and who they love.
And that joy can never go away.
“Our first kiss was last year at pride. Right over this bike. That’s right, right over this bike.”
This is Barb Brown and Ozzie Wheeler.
Both of them with rainbow mohawks, a gorgeous motorcycle and a spirit of wild abandon.
“You need to get lei’d honey.”
And they’re handing out rainbow colored beads.
“You got lei’d at pride. Lei’d by lesbians at pride.”
My first pride necklace.
And beneath the laughter, seriousness, because the killings in Orlando are a reminder that people of different sexual or gender identities still aren’t safe.
“We had to overcome fear to be here this year. But we decided to come out, be loud and be strong.”
Because for Brown and Wheeler, there is something worse than the fear of death.
“It’s worse to be closeted. I’d rather come out and risk being slaughtered for who I am than live in the closet and be ashamed. “
Barb Brown: “Never again. Never again be ashamed of who I am.”
And then the fun is back.
“You gotta get lei’d twice for that.”
Another rainbow necklace.
The pride parade brings teenagers in from the suburbs, young couples just starting out together, and people carryings signs saying “repent”.
There are also people carrying signs remembering Orlando.
One of them is Mark Lewis, who came out as a teenager in the 1970s.
“It’s an emotional time but things have really changed. And I am so sorry this had to happen.”
He says death has circled this community so often.
“I’ll never forget the last march on Washington when the AIDS quilt was displayed. It was like a war memorial. I mean our community has gone through so much and it takes tragedies like Orlando to really bring us to our feet again.”
But this is Seattle, and here the community is large, diverse and often on its feet, with so much to discuss.
Some people are adding new letters to the acronym – LGBTQ plus QIA and even another A – to try to express all the diversity.
Others are saying gender issues are different from issues around sexual orientation.
Laura Garman is 15 years old and watching the pride parade with her dad. She says there is an important similarity.
“Some have been kicked out some have been rejected by friends and family.”
But others have found strength in their support groups.
“Sometimes vulnerability is strength. We’re accepting who we are. We’re just trying to be who we are without judgement.”
Garman’s father, Steve, nods with approval.
Adolph: "You’re a cool dad."
Steve Garman: "I try to be."
Then the motorcycles get the signal, and the parade begins.
In Seattle, I’m Carolyn Adolph, KUOW News.