By Kate Daniel
When Kathryn Lynn Morgen peered into the upstairs landing of the main barn at Greenbank Farm Friday evening, her heart swelled.
The band PETE had yet to commence playing for the evening’s LGBTQIA-pride themed community barn dance, but about a dozen children and their respective family members were already celebrating, crafting zines and “freak flags,” taking photos and sharing a collective spirit of laughter and love.
Morgen is one of the organizers responsible for Langley’s first Queer Pride Parade, which took place in August of 2014. She and co-organizers Bonnie Stinson and Michael Morgen will be heading the second parade on Aug. 2. This year, they hope to precede the parade with a conference, which would include a panel discussion and workshops.
“We’re planning to keep the price point low, prioritize diversity, and emphasize queerness in the arts, activism and education,” Stinson wrote in an email.
Stinson and the Morgens are also the founders of Queer Parade Productions LLC, through which Morgen said she hopes to cultivate an active LGBTQIA community for Whidbey with regular gatherings and artistic events similar to those in Seattle.
“The vision is to hold events throughout the year that are a safe space for all ages, for people across the spectrum entirely,” said Morgen.
“We’re trying to build something where we can do events year-round, so I think it was a good first step,” she said of Friday night’s gathering.
The community barn dance was the first pride-themed dance at Greenbank, and was a part of First Fridays at the Farm. Crafts, a raffle and open mic were all a part of a fundraising effort for this year’s upcoming pride parade.
Morgen noted that they were able to raise approximately $116 from the raffle, though they were unsure how much was raised from the event overall as of Tuesday morning.
Funds raised for the parade will go towards basics such as water bottles and snacks for volunteers, walkie-talkies, a bull horn and safety vests.
Stinson, Morgen and Greenbank Farm Facility and Events Coordinator Madisun Clark deemed the event a success.
“It was absolutely wonderful,” Clark said. “There were over 100 people that came out and had a great time.”
Clark, who joined the farm staff in fall 2014, said she is passionate about continuing the tradition of community barn dances and hopes to make the pride-themed dance an annual affair.
“They’re important because people need a place to come out and just have fun and be safe and be themselves,” said Clark.
Clark’s sentiment aligns with Morgen’s, who noted that a large part of her goal with Queer Parade Productions LLC is to create safe spaces for LGBTQIA identifying individuals to feel safe expressing themselves and sharing with fellow members of the community.
After PETE’s performance, a handful of performers took advantage of the open mic segment, including a transgender man who shared a piece of poetry and an LGBTQIA activist who visited from Port Townsend to play a tune. Jamie McHugh and Maureen “Momo” Freehill performed a dance.
“Whidbey folks are very good at celebrating diversity,” Stinson wrote in an email. “And, like many, our community sometimes struggles with labels. I hope that QPP has brought a modern conversation around queerness into the Whidbey zeitgeist.”
Though one community member voiced opposition to the usage of the term “queer,” earlier last week, Clark said that she heard no other complaints regarding the term or the event in general.
“Everyone else has been incredibly supportive and welcoming,” said Clark.
Morgen concurred. For the most part, she said, she and Stinson have been able to facilitate conversations about their choice of the re-appropriated word with individuals who objected and have been able to reach mutual understanding.
Stinson, Morgen and Clark each expressed their excitement for this year’s parade, as did many of Friday evening’s attendees.
“It was absolutely beautiful, and I can’t wait for this year’s,” Clark said of the parade.
“I’m looking forward to feeling the community come together again, reveling in our differences and celebrating them together,” Stinson wrote. “It’s a tremendous honor to organize the Queer Pride Parade and to see so many familiar faces.”
In addition to the proposed conference, Morgen said she hopes to crown a parade king, queen, or non-gender-specific royalty for the parade and have a grand marshal. They are still seeking applicants for the latter.
Visit queerparade.com for information.