Thoughts about that ‘transgender performance’ in Federal Way | Livingston

In Federal Way, our city council’s bully pulpit has a few members that as of late are feeling more emboldened to represent either their personal or echo chamber’s prejudicial voice.

Are you one of those in our community who wants to believe that our city council has magical powers to control people’s behavior, make crime go away, and make staff responsive to what “I” want in a community of contrarians?

Each of us brings to the table our own set of notions and solutions to the illusions we want to construct as the village we want to call home. Our echo chambers are real and often tell us what to think, but do they help us see the problems we face in our daily lives? Are our echo chambers helping us grow or holding us back?

Like America, Federal Way is a place where dreams can be realized. But for some, it is a place where the dream may be in jeopardy or forced into the shadows due to cultural differences, religion, race and sexual orientation. We are constantly navigating the constraints we define for one another by our echo chambers and the politicians we elect to champion chosen constraints, beliefs, prejudice, and laws we choose to create, defining acceptable behavior and so-called lifestyle truths.

In Federal Way, our city council’s bully pulpit has a few members that as of late are feeling more emboldened to represent either their personal or echo chamber’s prejudicial voice. We often forget that politicians are there because they represent an agenda.

What should be an opportunity to rise above the fray and unify us with positive actions can become a pulpit for negative thought. But then again, sometimes there is more to gain politically by demeaning others when you believe you have the highest moral ground — that of being an elected official able to make laws and shape public opinion.

At the national level, we have the Republican Party and some evangelical groups doubling down on reversing LGBTQ+ rights and banning books, with the intended goal of making our nation less democratic. The negative tropes being used to align party politics permeate national, state and local politics.

Frankly, both parties are conflicting echo chambers incapable of building the community we need for all to have a better future.

We want to believe that those we elect represent the greater good, but politicians usually vocalize the thoughts of their respective echo chambers. The slippery slope confronting our community is that periodically a city council member represents a phobic voice designed to send a message while trying to be innocent about what they are saying.

Federal Way City Councilmember Linda Kochmar at an Oct. 10 Parks, Recreation, Human Services and Public Safety meeting commented that Federal Way is not Seattle or Tacoma and that she received a lot of complaints about a “transgender performance” at the Performing Arts and Event Center. Like it or not, she represented the concerns of those, in her echo chamber, who want to create ideological wedge issues in Federal Way. Smart politics, maybe, but not good for the future of Federal Way becoming a universally welcoming city.

The group publicly being whispered about was “Utopia Washington,” which held its Miss Island Goddess Pageant at the PAEC in March of this year. They are a grassroots organization born out of the struggles, challenges, strength, and resilience of the queer and trans Pacific Islander community in South King County. What should be celebrated was that it was a sold-out event at the PAEC for three days.

In the 1950s they arrested Elvis Presley at a concert because there was a “whole lot of shaking” going on because of the way he moved and danced on stage. When he appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” the camera crews were told to keep everything above the waist to prevent the audience from seeing the perceived sexual context with the way he moved to his music. Values in society are constantly changing and testing our tolerance with each pendulum swing.

Many years ago, I participated as an artist exhibitor at an International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) event held in the small town of Midlothian, Texas, just south of Fort Worth. One could easily say that the area is strongly conservative and well-represented by a church on every corner.

It was a typically traditional rodeo event with the exception that it included “Drag Queen” pageantry in the festivities. The rodeo participants were all professionals trying to make a living in a very tough sport and no one cared if they were straight, gay, or transgender, and no one could tell the difference.

The IGRA is an organization that is about breaking stereotypes while striving to produce quality events, is supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, and overall encourages honesty, good sportsmanship, and fair play as they strive to present wholesome family-oriented events. It was a well-attended rodeo that had no apparent complaints or prejudice expressed by anyone.

Councilmember Kochmar could have been a more gracious politician and said nothing, but then her chance at messaging would have been lost. She is allowed to express her beliefs, and why not make them known when the present-day pendulum is swinging in favor of those who want to repress the rights and activities of others by using the LGBTQ+ community as a political wedge issue?

Politics is often about setting the stage for future candidates to change what is presently acceptable as a service or entertainment in our city. Like it or not, it may be smart politics, but it is not good for the majority of those who live here in the present or will choose to be residents in the future.

The political pendulum is always in motion and for us to become universally inclusive we need to get beyond all of the silly notions that we may have about LGBTQ+, race, and ethnicity. Our city has real challenges to solve and we will not become a first-rate city if we get trapped by the mindset of an individual who does not appear to want to build a city accepting of all.

Keith Livingston is a retired municipal management professional, lifelong artist and Federal Way resident. He can be reached at