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Listen: Bethel community members show their colors at annual Pride march

Rainbow flags, stickers, bandanas, and bracelets flooded Bethel’s state highway on Saturday, June 8, as the community held its 5th annual Pride march and community picnic. Marchers held colorful hand-painted signs with slogans like: “Celebrate trans joy,” “Love is for everyone,” and “Alaska pride.”

Pride is celebrated in the month of June, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a series of protests against a police raid of a gay bar in New York City. While it didn’t originate the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, Stonewall helped catalyze the movement in the United States and throughout the world. Today, Pride is celebrated internationally with marches, performances, parties, and more.

Bethel’s Pride celebrations are a collaborative effort, bringing together the local campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the domestic violence shelter, Bethel teen organizations, and other community members. In addition to the march and community picnic, local organizations also hosted an informational brown bag lunch session earlier this week.

Bethel residents say they see local Pride celebrations as a way to show support and build an inclusive community off the road system.

KYUK spoke with members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies during Bethel’s Pride march over the weekend.

Comunity members celebrate Pride on June 8, 2024 in Bethel, Alaska.
Gabby Salgado/KYUK
Comunity members celebrate Pride on June 8, 2024 in Bethel, Alaska.

Read a rough transcript of the audio postcard below:

Taylor Feightner: It's a great day to be gay. Happy Pride everybody. And we would love to hear from Esther [Green].

Esther Green: Welcome everyone [...] everyone matters. [...] I was molded inside of my mom's stomach by nature. I am me with my own mind and with the way I am, that's natural. Nobody can change it, but what comes is to love everyone just as much as you love yourself.

Bethel Elder Esther Green gives a speech at the start of the Pride march on June 8, 2024 in Bethel, Alaska.
Gabby Salgado/KYUK
Bethel Elder Esther Green gives a speech at the start of the Pride march on June 8, 2024 in Bethel, Alaska.

Carolyn Goolsby: When I look out at all of you, what I see is love, and there's precious little of that going around these days. So good on you. [...] We're here today to celebrate love in all its forms, to celebrate humanity in all its forms. To celebrate our community and stand in solidarity for those rights to life, love, safety, and inclusion. We've come so far since I came out when I was 19 years old. I never once would have dreamed that we would have the right to marry, the right to keep our job, the right not to be attacked. People like you, like us, who stood up and said: 'We demand acceptance, we demand inclusion, we demand basic human respect.' We made it possible for other younger people to live better lives and to be safer and happier. The fact that we're here and celebrating makes tells a great deal about the progress that's been made.

Feightner: My name is Taylor Feightner. I'm with [Tundra Women’s Coalition]. I also operate the Teens Acting Against Violence program [...] Pride is one of the best types of violence prevention. Pride keeps people safe, keeps people at home. [...] I like to reflect on the first Pride celebration – Martha P. Johnson and her amazing group of black trans women in New York City's throwing that brick at Stonewall in an uprising to stand for our rights. [...] I always quote the Adverse Childhood Experiences study. That study shows that even if you have these adverse experiences that are higher and higher for a queer youth, specifically, that one safe adult is what makes the difference in moving that from an adverse childhood experience into a maladaptive coping strategy, into safety and joy.

Beverly Hoffman: I just feel really strongly that acceptance is very important. We're all human beings, and not everyone is the same. And you know, it's about being kind, and expressing love, and not judging people. [...] Bethel has always been a very diverse community, even growing up here, and it's a diversity and that's so important in the world today. That people are more accepting about each other, regardless of whatever their beliefs are, their preferences, you know.

Kailee Scheel: I’m Kay [...] I'm walking in Pride month because I forced myself to do something that was out of my comfort zone, to get out and be in a big group. [...] It feels quite nice, coming from a kid who desires to become something else that they don't feel comfortable in. It's quite nice and comforting knowing that there's actual other people here instead of feeling alone. [...] It gets better once you actually find people, but you'll be in a dark space for a good while, but you'll come out as soon as you find other people who are the same.

Community members create signs for the annual Pride march. June 8, 2024 in Bethel, Alaska.
Gabby Salgado/KYUK
Community members create signs for the annual Pride march. June 8, 2024 in Bethel, Alaska.

Officer Neal: I'm currently assigned to our School Resource Officer division. I take care of all the schools here. [...] I'm from the Washington, D.C. area. And I think this is a great thing. You know, it's good to see, especially in a community like this – like in D.C., we have our issues there, but, you know, here, I'm sure it's not as easy to be accepted as it is in the metropolitan area. So this is awesome to see people coming together as a community. I mean, that's what we need, you know, we need to bridge the gap, not only with the community, but also with the people, [Bethel] Police Department and other agencies. So it's cool to see everybody coming together,

Conrad "CJ" McCormick: I’m CJ McCormick, District 38 representative for the lower Kusko[kwim].

KYUK: What brings you out here today?

McCormick: Just to be here in solidarity with everyone supporting LGBTQIA2S+ individuals. I think it's not easy out here for folks like that, especially, I think, a lot of the villages, and so just being here in solidarity with folks, letting them know we support you and you can be who you want to be. I think that's really important. [...] I think it really sends a message to a lot of people, because I think, I don't know, I think Bethel maybe doesn't have the appearance that we're, like, pro-Pride or something like that, but I think when we come out and show solidarity like this, it really means a lot for people who might feel isolated. Not just here, but [...] I'm sure across the district and then all of rural Alaska.

Comunity members celebrate Pride on June 8, 2024 in Bethel, Alaska.
Gabby Salgado/KYUK
Comunity members celebrate Pride on June 8, 2024 in Bethel, Alaska.

Teresa Keller: I'm supporting everyone in the community, including the gay, lesbian, LGBTQ, and I want my children to know what this is about. You know, equality among everyone, really. So that's why we're here.

KYUK: So how many kids do you have with you?

Keller: Four. There's four beautiful, fun kids. [...] I think it's a really good opportunity to kind of open up the dialog with them. And there's so many people, I told them, ‘If you have questions, ask, because anyone here will answer your questions for you, and be happy to tell you anything, answer all your questions.’ [...] I think everybody should be open to accepting people the way they are. You don't have to agree with it. You don't have to like it. It's not your job to like it. It's just your job to be you, and everyone's job to do that. So I think it's great. I think it's a beautiful thing that we're all doing today.

Casey Hagedorn: We are celebrating LGBT Pride Month and showing how proud we are to be a member of this diverse community. [...] Being a trans man, I always felt very alone because I always felt like there wasn't a community out here. So seeing this is actually everything I ever hoped for. [...] Words cannot express how happy I am to be here, that I was able to be a part of this.

Victoria Sosa: I'm out here walking with a Pride parade in solidarity for family and friends who are trans, and gay, and the people of color who are often discriminated against for being themselves. So that's why I woke up really early on a Saturday to be here. It's important to show that, you know, younger generations, you have to be there for one another, and that's how it is. In our culture, we treat everyone like family no matter what.

KYUK: What does it mean to have a Pride parade in Bethel?

Sosa: It means a lot. That means the community is coming together as it should, and we're showing the younger generation, you know, it's 2024. It's okay to just be yourself. Because back in the day, our older generation, they had to fight for those rights. So this is us thanking them for that.

Sage Smiley is KYUK's news director.