The Rainbow Pride Doors in Federal Way are standing tall once again, thanks to the quick action of local community members.
Nearly 35 people gathered at Wayside United Church of Christ in Federal Way on June 26 for the dedication ceremony of the new doors, a colorful symbol of LGBT+ community acceptance, empowerment and love. The original doors had been destroyed the week before by an act of vandalism.
As the ceremony began, a speaker asked for those who helped repaint and rebuild the doors to raise their hands. Across the crowd, almost every hand rose into the air.
The new doors in vivid color read “God’s doors are open to all,” and are decorated with various blooming flowers. All of the supplies to create the new display were donated by Federal Way’s Lowe’s Home Improvement store.
Longtime Federal Way resident Leann Realiza, 28, learned about the vandalism through her Federal Way Pride community connections.
“Seeing something like that in my city that I’ve always grown up in, especially for me as a queer person, it really struck a chord with me,” she said. “I felt like I had to do something about it.”
Realiza, a 2010 Thomas Jefferson High School graduate, is a cartoonist who volunteered to do the lettering on the doors. She, along with residents Nici Anderson and Diane Jones Smith, completed the doors’ artwork and lettering that is bolder and more noticeable than the previous doors’ design.
The doors’ floral design was inspired by a Jalal al-Din Rumi quote: “Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
“I wanted to really put that into the piece. I wanted to show the growth of flowers — that we can take something negative and turn it positive,” Realiza said.
The display means more to the people in the community than the church even knew, solidified by the number of people who came out to help with the project, said 50-year-old Diane Jones Smith.
Artist and resident Nici Anderson said her husband was the first to discover the damage on June 21. Anderson, 29, said when the Marriage Equality Act passed in 2012, it was a pastor at Wayside United Church who offered to officiate the wedding of her two mothers when many other pastors in the Federal Way area refused.
“None of the artists that worked on [the doors] even go to this church. It was just really important that we show that everybody matters and that we support the church in their mission to include everybody there,” said Anderson, adding that Wayside United is a place “very near and dear to my heart.”
Candlesticks in the palms of attendees glowed in the fading light of the warm June 26 evening as Wayside United Pastor Allysa De Wolf told the crowd that now is the time for faith communities to take a stand.
“And that’s because there still is so much to do in our community here in Federal Way, and in our country and our world, for the LGBTQIA community” she said. Regardless of one’s sexuality, gender, or gender identity, “what is most important is for you to know that you are loved and you are welcome here.”
De Wolf held a moment of silence for members of the queer community, especially Black transgender women, who are killed at a higher rate than other demographics.
In 2019, at least 27 transgender or gender non-conforming people died in the U.S. due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were Black transgender women, according to the Human Rights Campaign. So far in 2020, there have been at least 16 violence-related deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people.
“These are just doors,” De Wolf said last Friday night. “You could knock them down a million times. They’re just doors. But we still have people in our community who are hurting and whose lives are at risk.”
She said the display is a symbol for queer and LGBTQ+ community members to know love conquers all: For those who have felt the doors of the world have been shut to see an opening of uncontainable love in Federal Way.