Teddy Burrage: My Open Resignation Letter from Pride Portland! to Portland LGBTQ Community

Dear Portland LGBTQ Community:

I’ve recently come to the decision that I am resigning from my role as Events Chair on the Pride Portland! Steering Committee. It was my honor to be involved with such an important organization and to have a part in molding the 10 days of events as well as the parade and festival. Unfortunately, this labor of love and passion became bogged down with controversy and impolite disagreements, to put it delicately. As someone who strives toward harmony and tends to be empathic, all of the vitriol has taken its toll, especially because those involved are/were people I consider friends. My stamina to take the sniping and grandstanding has slowly eroded since I started this venture.

I get it. Not everyone is going to agree all the time, but the heights at which some of these disagreements took place have flabbergasted me. At times, I was happy that I could see some people’s true colors but mostly I was dismayed, disappointed, and truly sad to see a community who is supposed to have each others’ back cannibalize itself. Particularly in this harsh political climate, it was my hope that we could galvanize around issues that are most emergent to our community.

I would be remiss in this statement if I didn’t address the concerns about inclusivity. I will not lament over the issue on this platform but I have to say a few things.

Triaging the issues our community faces is not exclusion. Using a narrative that prioritizes those at the highest risk of danger, marginalization, and silencing is not a narrative that says only some are welcome. In fact, by bringing the margins to the center conversation, we can improve the political and social conditions for everyone. That is a central tenet of feminism and the fight for LGBTQ rights: to strive toward equity through raising awareness so that all people can realize justice.

Issues such as the beer garden and the river of flag can be resolved with maturity and amicable, in-person, not-on-the-internet conversation. But we do, however, as a community of marginalized people, have a collective responsibility to stand in solidarity with all oppressed people, not only because it’s the ingenuous thing to do but also because many of us belong to other oppressed groups. We cannot compromise those values. But here, I digress.

I will not speak on behalf of the committee, but I speak for myself when I say that I had some missteps. Foremost, I did not do a good job at cultivating the Events Committee. Mostly, it was because I had to make a decision to spend more time coordinating events over recruiting volunteers. If I could change one thing about my performance, it would be that. I also got overwhelmed a few times with the non-stop emails and I wasn’t as timely in my responses as I should have been.

Despite all of the hubbub, Pride brought a huge amount of joy to me this year, as it always does and always will. Listening to the poignant stories shared at Coming Out Story Night with GLSEN and PFLAG; cutting a rug at the Timeless Intergenerational Prom with SAGE; learning about ball culture from members of the Legendary House of Labeija (a culture many of us reference constantly but few of us really understand); and watching the beautiful and diverse parade marshals at the head of the parade all reminded me of why I joined the committee: to take part in making Pride not only a great joy but also an enriching experience for our community. Because of this, my resignation is only from the Pride Portland! Steering Committee. I plan to continue to volunteer for the organization and others in the Portland community. I encourage those who are able to do so as well.

As we move closer to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and the 3rd year of the Trump presidency, we all need to stick together. It’s really that simple. At the risk of being redundant (though I don’t think it could be said enough), I will close this statement the way that I closed an article I wrote for the Portland Phoenix in during Pride of 2016:

“The celebration of Pride each year affords us the chance to stand under a common banner through our shared identity. It’s an opportunity we must seize to improve the lives of our community members and lift up the voices of the underserved and underprivileged. In an era when the government is particularly positioned against our interests, we must unify behind a collective commitment to the liberation of all people in our community with the same compassion and understanding we ask of our allies.

As we attend loud marches, glittery parties, and gaudy celebrations in the coming days, we should keep in mind the origins of Pride. We should all think of people like Marsha P. Johnson who fought, literally, to get us where we are now but who could reasonably in this modern-day be murdered simply for who she was. We should remember the people who have been forgotten by history [and mainstream society]. And we should commit ourselves to those in our community who need us the most.”

In Love and Solidarity,

Teddy Burrage

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