“When I went into teaching, I was like, is it OK for me to be a lesbian and a teacher?”
Katelin Catwell, a Shuksan Middle School teacher and 2022 Whatcom Youth Pride Coalition (WYPC) volunteer once asked herself this question in preparation for her graduate program.
“I never knew if it was gonna be OK or not,” she said. “In the end, I decided that was even more of a reason for me to become a teacher.”
This year’s Whatcom Youth Pride (WYP) Parade and Festival brought generations together in celebration and support of LGBTQQIA+ youth at Bellingham High School June 4.
“Seeing just the sheer amount of school support, community support, teacher support that happens now versus when I was in high school 12 years ago, is just wonderful,” said Catwell.
“My high school didn’t have anything like this, we had a Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA) but they weren’t allowed to advertise themselves, or put up posters or anything, I wasn’t out in high school because there wasn’t really a supportive community around me that I could see. So it’s really important to me to create spaces like this; it’s definitely a stark difference,” said Rax Organa, another WYPC board member.
Six members of the WYPC board planned the Whatcom Youth Pride Parade and Festival and it took 80 volunteers, 30 safety crew members and event tables from 28 different organizations to make it happen, Organa said.
Local community members and QSA advisors came together to start Whatcom Youth Pride late 2018. The Bellingham Schools Foundation is a major sponsor for the coalition and the WYP event.
“The school district has been a really welcoming partner, they allow us to use the space,” said Smason-Marcus.
Constance Murphy, Bellingham resident and transgender woman attended as a representative of PFLAG, a nationwide LGBTQQIA+ organization, to show pride and support for her community.
“A Pride event that brings together our marginalized community, which is under attack around the country, is super important. This small community — up to 8% of the population — is filled with people who want nothing more than kindness, compassion and understanding. To be treated as EQUAL to everyone else,” she said.
The Pride parade was followed by a drag queen show starring, in order of appearance, Devine Devyn @aidalynnn, Glamazon Prime @glamazonbanazon, Miss Bernet Branca @jacobnolan and Elle BP @littleboPeeps.
WYPC board member Eve Smason-Marcus said a survey reaching Whatcom County queer youth through the QSA voted for the drag show. Smason-Marcus said, “drag is just such a quintessential part of queer spaces and celebrations.”
Smason-Marcus says the event’s message is to “feel comfortable in your own skin, accepting each other for who we are and accepting ourselves for who we are. You are valid, you belong, you are loved.”
For more information about WYPC click here.
Hear what the QUEENS had to say in the audio file below:
(Audio coming soon)