Eight vivid colors are flying above Federal Way City Hall throughout June in honor of Pride Month.
Approximately 50 community members, local officials and city employees gathered at City Hall on June 1 for the second annual pride flag raising ceremony.
The flag is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally and pansexual (LGBTQIA+) community pride and social movements.
This year’s pride flag features the traditional six rainbow colors with two additions — one black stripe representing diversity and one brown stripe for inclusivity.
2020 marked the first year Federal Way had ever flown a pride flag at City Hall. This year, pride flags are also being displayed at Celebration Park and along S. 320th Street in the city’s downtown core.
“They’re more than just symbols,” said Mayor Jim Ferrell, who donned a purple tie for the occasion. “Collectively, they confirm our commitment to action and to change.”
In the Federal Way City Council and mayor’s proclamation declaring June 2021 as Pride Month in the city, “the city of Federal Way cherishes the value and dignity of each person and appreciates the importance of equality and freedom,” it reads in part.
“We denounce prejudice and unfair discrimination based on age, gender identity, gender expression, race color, religion, martial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical attributes,” the proclamation continues.
The flag will be flown at City Hall for the entire month of June. The month is also nationally recognized as LGBTQIA+ Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred in New York City at the end of June 1969.
Equality has not always been synonymous with celebrations and parades of love, said local resident and drag queen Serena Starr. Starr is also the board president of the Imperial Sovereign Court of Tacoma, a nonprofit dedicated to LGBTQ+ equality and fundraising for local charities.
“Right now, people around the world — they face violence and inequity and sometimes torture and even execution because of who they love, how they look, or who they are,” Starr said.“Gender identity and sexual orientation are integral aspects to ourselves and should never lead to discrimination or abuse.”
Starr, which is his stage name, has been performing since he was 6 years old. First it was small grade-school performances, then moved onto larger auditions and shows in high school. He performed in theater shows, sang in the choir, played the bass in orchestra, and later studied professional entertainment at Green River College.
“It’s what kept me out of trouble,” he said. “It was the music and the theater that kept me going.”
Starr became the makeup designer at Auburn High School’s theater and was mesmerized at the ability to both corrective and creative makeup. From the shows to the costumes and makeup, for Starr the passion is “the creation, that creativity.”
In many ways, Serena Starr became an outlet for his voice: all the things he was afraid to say, wouldn’t say, or taught not to say. Society needs to be inclusive for everyone, no matter what, he added.
“We all deserve love, we all deserve respect and equality on all levels — no more excuses,” Starr said.
Starr and his husband, Pat, were founders of Tacoma’s pride celebrations in 1997. Prior to moving to Tacoma, the couple lived in an apartment in Federal Way.
The building’s new owner, upon learning they were a gay couple, began proceedings to evict them. During a recorded deposition, the renter allegedly admitted to not wanting to rent to gay men. This omission was the reason the couple won their lawsuit, but decided to relocate to Tacoma anyway.
Starr and his husband were crowned emperor and empress of Tacoma in 1997 by the Imperial Court.
“It was such a huge honor to be elected by your community to represent them,” he said. The couple, though, wanted to make a bigger, lasting impression.
After months of planning and many excuses from the city, the couple and their event partners secured a stage, musicians, a sound system, artists, and about dozen booths. Slowly, the pride plan began to come together.
In collaboration with the Pierce County AIDS Foundation (PCAF) and the University of Puget Sound, the couple were founders of Tacoma’s first pride celebration in the summer of 1997.
Though strides have been taken to create new, larger and better events in cities around the state, there is always work to be done in advocating for equality, he said.
“We need to advocate for laws and policies that will protect everyone’s dignity, and work for a world where all people can enjoy their rights equally and fully,” Starr said.
Serena Starr on stage
Several upcoming events are scheduled for the public to immerse themselves and appreciate the world of drag.
Tacoma-based Frolick Productions is hosting two drag shows later in June at the VFW Hall (Veterans of Foreign Wars – Post 969) at 3510 McKinley Ave. in Tacoma. The Pride Show, and first event of the weekend, is at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 26. RetroDivas, the second show of the weekend and created by Serena Starr featruing music from the 1970s through 1990s, is a drag queen brunch starting at noon Sunday, June 27. The drag queen brunch tickets include a meal and champagne mimosa.
For tickets and more information, visit Frolick Productions on Facebook.
Later this year, the Mr., Miss, and Ms. Gay Washington Pageant is celebrating its 50th-year anniversary. Held at a date to be announced, the pageant contest has been updated to be more inclusive, allowing transgender people to compete in the category they feel most comfortable in and then, if a winner, can be crowned in which title they prefer.
“I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime,” Starr said. “We want to be inclusive, we want everybody to be able to come to the table … everybody is welcome.”
Starr is still vying for an opportunity to perform on a casino stage, and until then, is working to make the world a more kind, gentle place which, he says, “starts with ourselves.”