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San Juan Island Pride Foundation: Reaction to hateful vandalism encouraging

  • Written by Deanna Osborn, Tara Craig, John Latimer, Jordana Ansley, Steve Wambsganss, and Alisha Halverson

The San Juan Island Pride Foundation (SJIPF) would like to address the incredibly hateful words that were scrawled on the community rock on Beaverton Valley Road in the overnight hours of Sunday 5/28.

On the Friday before, we had the privilege to assist some amazing young people of our island to paint the rock for Pride.  The group painted the Pride flag, the Transgender flag, information of our upcoming pride festival, and then they signed it with their painted handprints. It was stunning! 

On Monday morning our town woke to find hateful words covering the beautiful work the young people had done only days before.  Many of you saw the picture of the vandalism on social media,  some heard about it by word of mouth, and others saw it as you were driving by. The vandalism included hateful words that were incredibly hard to see. In fact, at some point, some of the comments on What’s Up Friday Harbor on Facebook asked that the photo be removed. The admins, subsequently, did just that.

SJIPF and our queer community understand that these things are hard to see.  In fact, we feel the pain and fear these words cause everyday. These hateful acts are not new. For decades, queer people have had to live knowing that there are some people who hate us just for being our true selves. When you grow up queer in the United States, you grow up knowing that some people even want to kill you. Many of us have been victims of hate crimes, with several of those hate filled incidents taking place here on SJI. And, yes, it does happen here!  As difficult as it is to see those horrible comments on our beloved community rock, we are glad you saw them and didn’t leave us to face this pain alone.  

The response of this community has been overwhelming. As word of the vandalism started to spread the town mobilized.  First someone spray painted over the hate filled words. Then others showed up to repaint. Browne’s donated the paint that was needed. Sheriff Eric Peter came out to the site and made a public statement that this kind of hate is not tolerated in our community. Several of you reached out to friends or loved ones to check in on them in light of what happened.  Others posted supportive comments on the facebook post. For all of this we say thank you.  Thank you to Ace Hardware and Browne’s Home Center for donating the original paint for the kids to paint the rock. A very special thank you to the kids that came out on Friday to paint the rock originally.  Thank you to every business and individual who has donated to help us make this year’s Pride Festival better than ever. Most importantly thank you for standing with us and letting us know we matter and are not alone.

When we started the SJIPF in 2021, we knew that more visibility would bring more incidents of hate. What we did not know is that it would bring out so many allies. If you are an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, you have no idea how much we appreciate and need you. You are a safe person we can go to when hate and ignorance and violence comes our way. You stand not only with us but in front of us to protect us. You truly soften the blow when we are victimized simply because of who we are. We want you to know that this does not go unnoticed. Please know that we still need you even though the rock has been repainted and the photo taken down. Without you we are left vulnerable and feeling alone to absorb the hate on our own. 

SJIPF and our beautiful queer community saw all of your comments of love and support yesterday on social media. What we need now from our allies is to come to SJI Pride Festival 2023 on June 17th at the fairgrounds from 4pm-10pm. Come and celebrate love, life, and acceptance. Your presence will demonstrate that we have many more allies in our community than people who wish to do us harm.  Let us see who stands with us so if we ever feel threatened, we will recognize a safe face where we can get help instead of feeling completely alone. You will make a difference!  

We also ask that you be bold and raise a Pride Flag at your home to make your support visible. Even if you live where no one can see it, the presence generates solidarity. Whether it is an ally flag, a traditional rainbow, or other LBGTQ+ identity flag this strengthens our unity and shows us, other islanders and visitors that we are supported here! This is a big gesture that goes beyond showing up once a year to a celebration. This is a declaration. If you do not have a flag please consider ordering one from a LGBTQ+ supportive company https://pridepalace.lgbt

If you are unable to get a flag please contact us at sjipride@gmail.com and we will do our best to provide you with one.

The SJIPF is more committed than ever to be present to support and protect our LGBTQIA+ community. We will continue to provide a safe space for anyone who feels like they need it. We will continue to support our queer community of all ages to be free to be their true authentic selves. 

We again would like to thank all who took time out of their busy holiday weekend to stand by our side, to roll up their sleeves to catch the drips of paint, and to listen to our cries of fear after the rock was defaced. However, our greatest love and gratitude goes out to those wonderful young people who came out with pride on Friday to paint the rock so beautifully. Your strength and pride of who you are, gives queer people of every generation hope. 

With Pride and Hope,

The San Juan Island Pride Foundation 

Deanna Osborn, Tara Craig, John Latimer, Jordana Ansley,
Steve Wambsganss, and Alisha Halverson