[Vision2020] Palouse area mostly accepting, but not immune to hate

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Fri Jun 17 04:28:08 PDT 2016

The Moscow City Council (May 14, 2013)

Courtesy of today's (June 17, 2017) Moscow-Pullman Daily News.


Palouse area mostly accepting, but not immune to hate
Members of the LGBT community shed light on their experiences in Pullman, Moscow
Some members of the LGBT communities in Moscow and Pullman say they have been subject to hate and threats and even lost friends because of their orientation and gender presentation here on the Palouse, but they say the area is mostly safe and accepting.
They say they've been followed, picketed, threatened and sometimes they have to think twice about holding a partner's hand in public. Some have hid their sexuality to avoid losing a job.
Most, however, say it is only a small number of people who don't accept them on the Palouse.
In the wake of the past weekend's shooting that left 49 dead at the Pulse Orlando Night Club & Ultra Lounge, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., local members of the LGBT community say they won't live their lives in fear.
"I'm not afraid of something like that happening here," said Katie Noble, a lesbian and violence prevention educator at Washington State University.
Gordon Mellot, 33, has performed at drag shows in Moscow and Pullman for the past 13 years.
"Moscow is a pretty safe community but there are always two or three people hiding in the shadows that you have to be aware of," Mellot said.
While the Palouse is overall inclusive, Kathy Sprague, a Moscow native who has organized drag shows in Moscow and Pullman for more than 20 years, has experienced some of the worst it has to offer.
She said she received death threats after running for Moscow City Council in 1993. One message left on her answering machine she still distinctly remembers: "Die you f-----g dykes." She also said her friend William Hendrick, who was gay, was murdered in Moscow in 1999 because of his sexual orientation. The case has not been solved.
Sprague, 51, said she was also a friend of Steve Nelson, a former University of Idaho student and employee who responded to an online ad for sex in southern Idaho in early May and was beaten and robbed by four men. He died from his injuries.
"There is no denying Steve Nelson's murder was a hate crime. Every day someone is gay bashed - sometimes it goes as far as it did with Steve and they die," she said. "We can't live in fear - we live knowing that it might be us next. You might as well ask every woman in this country if she fears being raped, it's always in the back of our mind."
Sprague said she still remembers an incident in 1994 after anti-gay legislation was proposed in Idaho. She said members of Christ Church and its pastor, Doug Wilson, showed up outside a gay dance and displayed anti-gay signs, one of which read, "AIDS Inoculation Center."
"I was younger and not as secure in my identity," she said. "And anyone who will attack a community while they're down is showing their true colors and it certainly isn't being a good Christian."
Sprague said tragedies like that in Orlando make many in the LGBTQIA community relive previous attacks.
"This is what we live with in the back of our minds every single day," she said.
Brandon Dudley, 29, of Pullman, said he feels safe in Pullman as a gay man, but high school was a different story. Dudley said he was bullied every day at Pullman High School, to the point he considered suicide once. That led to him to dropping out.
He later re-enrolled, but he didn't stay long.
"I was assigned to give a speech on gay marriage. I told (the teacher) I didn't feel comfortable and she told me I had no choice," he said. "The class erupted with students calling me a faggot ... that was my last day at PHS."
He said he now receives more flack for being African-American than a homosexual.
For Noble, 32, it wasn't until a few years ago that she started working at Washington State University and was able to come out and be open with her sexuality at work. She said her previous Pullman employer had told her "gay people should be lobotomized and shouldn't have the same rights as other people."
"He said it's a mental illness or defect that should be fixed," Noble said. "It wasn't a fun experience working for someone who didn't accept me for who I was. There are definitely situations you have to gauge how publicly you want to be about your sexuality."
Mellot said he's been followed and had his neighbors throw beer bottles at him and call him names, but such instances are rare.
"They've chased me down saying I don't belong here, 'there's no place in Moscow for people like you,' and they're sick of us 'trying to take over the community,' " he said. "They don't happen often, but when they do they resonate hard with me. Moscow is a safe place - when it does happen it's so out of the norm."
Dudley said he was considering studying pre-law in Orlando.
"I would have been there at this time, I could have been at that club," he said. "Those are my friends - that could have been me."
Noble doesn't have any Orlando ties, but he hopes those killed were loved.
"I feel fortunate that I have a biological family that loves me and supports me. There are so many people in the LGBTQ community that don't have that. That's why I feel so much sadness and sorrow for 49 people I never met," she said, crying on the phone. "I know how difficult it can be to be afraid of who you are, and not be able to express that. I hope they were loved, and they knew that.
"For every violent person there are 40 that are not violent. All it takes for us to use our voice - that's how the numbers change and violence happens less often."
Sprague had a similar message.
"When you hear someone say, 'that's so gay,' call them on it. 'You throw like a girl,' it's all tied together. Rape culture, misogyny, they're all heads to the same hydra," Sprague said. "We need to treat everyone with kindness and respect, and call our peers on it when they are not doing that."


"Just Two Men Who Do-Si-Do"

"Gay Girls Make Great Moms"

Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom "Free to be you and me" Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
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