By Annalise Servin
The doors of the Bertha Knight Landes room in Seattle City Hall stayed open past closing time on Wednesday to accommodate the kickoff of Social Outreach Seattle’s (SOSea) first community forum of 2014. The topic of the evening: the current state of the lesbian community in Seattle.
While the event focused on the L in the LGBTQ community, the forum was open to everyone.
Seattle City Councilmember Sally Clark, retired Judge Anne Levinson, Seattle Parks Department’s Aretha Alexander, Sistah Sinema director Angela Hughes, and The Seattle Lesbian publisher Sarah Toce took questions on the forum’s panel.
SOSea was founded by Shaun Knittel, the organization’s president and CEO, in July 2012. Originally, the group was started to bring a more realistic and truer representation of the LGBT community to the fight for Referendum 74.
“The ads and things that were coming out didn’t look like anybody I knew in the actual community and for me, that’s a problem,” said Knittel. “You can’t say that certain parts of the community are fabulous and great then all of the sudden shove them into the darkness when you want to go ‘mainstream.’ That doesn’t work for me.”
Now that the right to marriage has been won in Washington State, the group focuses on bringing the LGBTQ community together to discuss things that they might not get to talk about in their everyday lives. SOSea hosts a conversation series called “Intersections” that allows for people to express their views on broader topics that affect the community. Some recent topics of discussion were immigration and asylum and body diversity.
Panelists kicked off the forum by answering a question about where the lesbian community is headed after the vote for marriage equality.
“The community is greater and more visible than ever before, it’s just more diffused,” said Clark, in response.
Lesbians in the community are now focusing on other issues that have always affected them, but took a back burner to marriage equality, including homelessness, youth outreach and the aging of generations in the community.
Whitney Frasier, an organizer of the annual Seattle Dyke March, came to the event to participate in the discussion.
“There was a lot happening before marriage came up as a goal and the activism in the lesbian community is pretty radical when trying to get rights around healthcare and poverty and feminist issues,” said Frasier. “Those were there all along, they kind of got co-opted by the marriage movement and I think there are still people who have been working on those issues all along and would like some of those people who got riled up about marriage to come and join those movements.”
The audience pitched into the forum by asking questions about the use of sensitive words like “dyke,” what difficulties the women had faced in the workforce while being out and how they work around being identified as “just a lesbian.”
“Personally, I know this is a lesbian forum, but I’ve always referred to myself as a person first,” said Toce. “I just happen to be married and love a wonderful woman, so that’s that.”