Pride Speaks: policy, advocacy, and the future of Washington's Queer community

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Photo by Georgia Skerritt
Photo by Georgia Skerritt

On Thursday, November 17, members of Washington state's LGBTQ+ community gathered to discuss policy and advocacy plans for the coming year at Pride Speaks, a quarterly speaker series focusing on "issues impacting the LGBTQIA+ community... viewed through an LGBTQIA+ lens.".

The event was put on by Seattle Pride, in partnership with Blended Pride, the LGBTQ+ employee resource group of Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. Guests arrived at 6 p.m. for a casual community mixer, complete with food and wine to taste, and then convened in the nearby theater for a panel discussion.

Given this post-Roe world and increasingly harmful legislation and rhetoric targeting LGBTQ+ issues, a heightened sense of uncertainty can be felt throughout the community. So panelists and guests came together to address these concerns and plan the next steps in the state of Washington and beyond.

Panelist Nico Quintana (l) and moderator Jupiter Peraza (r) — Photo by Georgia Skerritt  

The panelists
The moderator was Jupiter Peraza, a Trans, Latina woman based in San Francisco, who is a program associate at the Transgender District, focusing primarily on immigrant rights, trans rights, and voter mobilization. While introducing the panelists and discussion, Peraza touched upon her own experience with being Queer and Trans. "Transness is not just an identity but also a way of interpreting the world," she said.

One panelist was Nico Quintana (he/they), an Indigenous and Latinx Transmasculine person who is currently the lead attorney for the Lavender Rights Project. Quintana came out as Trans in 1997 and has been a community organizer ever since, slowly moving into the legal field. He explained that the majority of his work is with legal programs that provide services to BIPOC and Trans communities in Washington state, specifically focusing on the support of Black Trans women. "Being a lawyer can be a pretty fucked-up profession, and I think more people need to be a punk and come in to disrupt the system," Quintana said.

Panelists Li Nowlin-Sohl (l) and Mattie Mooney (r) — Photo by Georgia Skerritt  

Panelist Mattie Mooney is currently working as a senior program coordinator for Transgender health at Swedish Hospital. They are also a co-founder of the Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, which was established in 2018 and has since donated over $1 million to Trans women of color throughout Washington state; it is also part of the work group that created the Gender-Affirming Treatment Act in Washington state (which was passed into law in 2021). About their work in the healthcare system, Mooney said, "We're squeaky wheels, we're troublemakers, we're in arguments with people all the time, which [...] is really what you need to get anything done in healthcare."

Mooney also discussed their experience as a child of African immigrants and how that cultural upbringing informed their journey. "Transness has always been very deeply spiritual and very deeply ingrained in my culture as a Liberian person, and so too is it deeply ingrained in a lot of other BIPOC cultures," they said.

Panelist Li Nowlin-Sohl identifies as a biracial (white and Chinese), gender-nonconforming woman and works as an attorney for the ACLU's LGBTQ+ project. Prior to that, she worked with the ACLU of Washington. Nowlin-Sohl cited her intersectionality as a motivator for her work. "Being Queer and being biracial kind of means that I feel like I don't fully fit in anywhere," she said. "That intersectionality helps me approach my work with an eye towards belonging and making sure that everyone is included."

She also discussed her experience in litigation, explaining the importance of Queer engagement and leadership within the legal system: "The law is a huge tool of oppression, particularly against LGBTQ individuals, so having people from our community in there working to fight the law is critically important while acknowledging that it's deeply flawed and problematic."

Trans rights and future legislation
The panel eventually moved on to discuss the future of legislation and advocacy, specifically in regard to one major point of contention in current politics: Trans youth. In the face of almost 240 anti-LGBTQ+ laws being passed this year, the preservation of Trans youth rights is a key priority for the community all across the country.

"These bills are about controlling bodies. They are about enforcing gender norms and erasing LGBTQ+ and specifically Trans folks," said Nowlin-Sohl.

"Unfortunately, for the next couple of years, I think we're going to be playing defense," she continued, explaining that the future of Washington state will likely be focused on preserving whatever rights residents already have and maintaining legislation that will keep our youth and their families protected.

"The priority is keeping families intact... keeping people safe, keeping them alive, and not letting them be erased," she said.

Quintana also discussed a sense of self-awareness for those working in the legal realm, even if they are working for the protection of BIPOC and Trans people. "How we respond to urgency matters," he said. "We can easily perpetuate white supremacy, anti-Black racism, and transphobia if we don't pause and see how we are upholding what has been done and enforced before."

Later on, Quintana encouraged his fellow panelists and audience members to shift leadership to those most affected by these bills. "What we can do differently going forward is we can actually hire Trans, BIPOC folks to be leading and be paid to run community defense efforts in these vulnerable states," he suggested. "Solutions to these issues are only good when they are actually coming from the communities most impacted, because they know firsthand what will be most helpful."

Nowlin-Sohl followed up on these ideas, adding a reminder to the audience that "justice is not going to be found in the courthouse." She again emphasized the importance of giving attention to both legal efforts and on-the-ground community organizations and education resources.

"When it comes to making change, I really do think that we need to prioritize finding and giving leadership to communities that are the most impacted. It should never be cis people making decisions for us," Quintana said. "How we do this work matters in building the next generation of leaders."

While the current legal landscape of the US is daunting and tense, I walked away from this discussion as a better-educated member of the community. In the midst of this year's anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and rhetoric, the recent Pride Speaks event was a profound and compelling reminder of the transformative power of Queer resiliency.

For more information on upcoming events and ways to support the community, please visit