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Becoming better, together

by sonj basha

Pride was inspired by a riot in New York City. If that brick was thrown through the glass window of a beloved cafe on Capitol Hill Seattle, would Marsha P. Johnson be celebrated as a change-maker or criticized as a local troublemaker? Juneteenth is now a federal holiday, yet it is set up against the legislative backdrop of local educators and activists fighting to teach critical race theory in our public school system. Seattle and the Pacific Northwest know more than anywhere about the complexities of living in a progressive world. Conservative groups from across the state make their opinions on the LGBTQ2IA+ community known by attempting violent rallies at Pride parades and spreading hateful rhetoric about marginalized communities before election season. Yet, it is considered to be one of the safest and most inclusive places to live for young, queer, professionals. A recent study put out by The Seattle Times showed Seattle ranking 3rd in the nation for the highest LGBTQ+ population per capita by ratio. And those numbers are increasing. Increasing like the impacts of gentrification and lack of accessibility for low-income families of color and working artists. So, how do we as a community reconcile the contradictions and political binaries that we exist in and often perpetuate, sometimes even unknowingly? This is what I am grappling with this year for Pride.

In 2017, I wrote an article published in the Seattle Pride Guide where I called on the mainstream LGBTQ movement to actively bring to the center those who hold identities at vulnerable intersections. After surviving a pandemic that gave fuel to the world of social media as a means of connection and technology as the key to productivity, I have a new lens on where I see the gaps and strengths in our local movements. Today, I find myself ruminating on what is and isn’t mainstream, what is and isn’t activism, and more so, whether these things are really that simple and categorized in the first place. Recently, I was reflecting on just how far the Queer community has come in relation to things like legislation, healing, community aid, self-actualization in the workplace, etc. To be honest, it gave me permission to rest. Because to relax knowing that so many people on so many platforms are doing such amazing work is the reason why we work so hard collectively. We depend on allies, young people, and skilled visionaries to have the drive and capacity to usher in the next chapter of the Queer liberation movement and to be at the forefront of transformative change. Yet, it is foolish to be naïve when it comes to the truth about living in a divided world.

I am trying to understand where, along the path in the last decade, did so much hate uncontrollably breed. I wonder if, perhaps, instead of centering people at the intersections, we began making and choosing sides. Our systems and institutions polarized our communities, and our political agendas found binaries to separate us. We began to identify ourselves by what we are not, instead of who we are becoming. The LGBTQ2AI+ community knows better than anyone that being queer is a constant journey of becoming. Finding ways to fit in, celebrate each other, create culture, and dismantle judgements about ourselves and towards others, are all part of the notion that celebrating difference can be affirming and joyful. Finding our queerness is arguably the most fluid and transformative journey that a person can be on. So then, what would happen if we began to come together in revolutionary sameness? Maybe then, we could see conflict as generative and different opinions as opportunities to highlight the voices that are most silenced in the collective. Exploring different narratives can be pathways to finding solutions that bring communities together in diversity.

There are indeed places where Seattle finds avenues to thrive, together. Beacon Hill still stands as one of the most diverse zip codes in the entire nation. Taking B(l)ack Pride is creating an alternative space to highlight community resilience without corporate sponsorship. This city knows how to create spaces of joy, even when there are those that are working to silence it. It takes more than protesting, more than voting, more than education, albeit these are incredible pillars to the movement. As the government begins to lift pandemic restrictions and our reunion is igniting, it is in our commitment to heal separation that I will find pride this year.

I believe in the radical notion that every single individual, every community, and all institutions have a role in healing our world. Every person deserves to have a sense of belonging, to be proud of who they are, and to celebrate where pleasure finds a home on their journey. This Pride, I lift up the stories of those who have come before us and eagerly usher in a new beginning of coming together with the common purpose of making our world a weirder and queerer place. A place where everyone prioritizes humanity and respect, and we no longer seek to find what separates us.

headshot of sonj basha
sonj basha is a Seattle resident who travels often and eats well. As an independent consultant for various non-profit organizations and a Director of Community for a niche real estate company, they prioritize family and laugh often. They completed a two-year term with the City of Seattle as co-chair of the inaugural Community Involvement Commission, as well as being a featured speaker on various panels and at City events. In addition to receiving a BA in Gender and Sexualities Studies from Mills College in Oakland California, sonj has 33 years of praxis as a Queer, Muslim Immigrant and Survivor. They are passionate about creating inclusive access to wellness spaces and are currently working to re-engage their experience in facilitating international retreats. Learn more about sonj at

This piece was commissioned by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. The opinions expressed and information contained herein do not necessarily reflect the policies, plans, beliefs, conclusions, or ideas of the City of Seattle.