Ahead of this year’s Astoria Pride celebration, Tessa Scheller, the Lower Columbia Q Center’s chair, gave some background on Pride Month, as well as ideas on how community members can get involved.
Coast Weekend: What is Pride?
Tessa Scheller: Pride started back in the late 60s with the Stonewall Riot. It’s important to recognize that people who are oppressed, kicked and harmed will rise up eventually. Violence is not what any of us prefer but it’s the way people have traditionally secured rights.
I’m not going to compare our fight for rights to people of color because they’re different but we support them. We still don’t have equality for people who are queer, transgender or identify in other groups.
The generic term, Pride, represents the need for us to stay visible, to be part of the spectrum of people that are recognized as neighbors, community members, friends, family, doctors and so on.
Until the day I retired in 2008, I could’ve lost my job because I’m queer. It did impact my career because of people who were discriminatory on the job. Every gay and lesbian person has heard taunts from the public. There’s a lot less of that now but it takes people standing up to say that’s not OK.
People were tired of the abuse because people were being arrested simply because they were gay. Today that doesn’t happen. It took standing up in the Stonewall Riots. That’s not our method anymore but we have a responsibility for educating our community about who we are and how we fit.
CW: What is the mission of the Lower Columbia Q Center?
TS: We have to educate. We want that ability to be a homegrown, organic, safe and welcoming resource. Education is part of our method to getting there. We’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable group.
Education is a big part of us. Visibility is a big part of us. If we’re all in the closet, it’ll be like the 1950s where we thought ‘There aren’t any gay people in my community.’
We have to guard those rights and educate people. Most people understand it’s a normal human variation. We’ve been around a long time. It’s unfortunate people have been oppressed for centuries in this nation. There are LGBTQ people in every community. We want to be out, be loud and be proud. Sometimes it takes noise. Sometimes it takes unrest and demonstrations. We’re completely peaceful but we’re in the education mode and we want to be embraced by the sisters and brothers of our community.
CW: How can people who don’t identify as LGBTQ support the event?
TS: There’s a number of ways we can be allies in the community. A lot of people are thinking about that now for people of color.
Allyship means if you’re in a social or private situation, there’s got to be someone to speak up and say ‘No, it’s not OK to make jokes about queer people. It’s wrong and hurtful.’
Also, hopefully people realize this isn’t catchy. This is my normal, this is our normal. We’re not a threat. There is not a gay agenda to take over the world. Sometimes people will come to the conclusion that they’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or something else. I hope people will recognize that this is our normal.
The basis of all good relationships is based on trust. We want people to have a sense of trust about us as individuals and a community. We all want the same thing, a successful community and resources shared with equity.
Being an ally looks like standing up in support, contributing to an organization or as a volunteer and being able to recognize I’m your friend, not just your gay friend. I’m first your friend or your family member, not the gay one. We want to be seen as the full spectrum of our humanity and our basic self-worth. We want to be treated with basic human dignity and respect.