Lynette Shaw: Outpouring of support fills hearts, lifts spirits

LGBTQ Pride is a celebration. It exists primarily to bring joy, comfort and safety to a stigmatized group, remind us of our successes and progress, challenge negative stereotypes about the queer community, and normalize LGBTQ families.

It is an incredibly important, once-a-year spotlight bringing together people who are often isolated, particularly in rural areas, so they can feel less alone. It allows us to feel the exuberance of living as our true selves, with full-throated support from allies, showing that successful, compassionate and outspoken queer people exist everywhere.

In a time when anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and legislation have become commonplace, we seem to have slipped back to the era before the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage. In fact, the decision itself feels as though it’s in jeopardy. So Pride and its associated celebrations are more important than ever, especially for young people.

Studies have shown overwhelmingly the positive effect that even one affirming adult can have in the lives of LGBTQ youth. Pride and other symbols of affirmation and acceptance literally save lives.

We know it, we see it. And in this community, we have felt it.

PFLAG is the first and largest organization dedicated to supporting, educating and advocating for LGBTQ people and their families. With a mission of providing services to local families in need, PFLAG Newberg is the only local chapter of this influential and important organization in the north valley.

Our chapter is heavily involved in local Pride celebrations, and this year was no exception. The car parade and party held at the Chehalem Cultural Center last weekend was a picture of joy, love and the power of community coming together at a time that feels precarious for many.

On a beautiful afternoon, an estimated 700 people showed up to participate in a kids’ parade and art activities, enjoy free food and live music, and listen to engaging and inclusive stories from Kevin Cook, also known as Poison Waters, at a Drag Queen Story Hour.

The story hour had to be held in a small indoor venue with heavy security, ticketed admission and word-of-mouth-only marketing after threats of violence and disruption forced cancelation of a similar event in Tigard. Next year, we hope to open something similar to a wider audience.

As it was, the mid-afternoon kids’ parade was almost derailed by a local political gadfly who prowled around outside all day after being removed from the event premises by Newberg police. He filmed our activities, apparently seeking footage he could twist to harm us.

We re-routed the parade at the last minute, and a community of loving adults stepped up to form a three-deep human wall across the entire street and sidewalk to shield around 75 children and parents from filming without consent.

Seventy-five kids and parents, sporting rainbow-decorated scooters, bikes and strollers, then had their moment to bask in the cheers of a community that demonstrated its love by standing up to protect them. That is what real community love looks like.

Showing up for kids and families despite the toxic behavior of others, aimed at intimidating the LGBTQ community, is incredibly important in these tumultuous times. So is the support we got from members of Newberg’s city staff and council, local faith leaders and newly elected school board members.

The outpouring from the community filled hearts and lifted spirits. It exemplified PFLAG’s motto: “Leading With Love. We will be back.”