Over the last year, the topic of LGBTQ+ rights has become a focal point of political discussions, leading to a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and hate crimes.
Boise has not been exempt from growing anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes. This was shown after a man from Idaho was indicted for a federal hate crime after trying to run over two people he believed were gay on Oct. 12, 2022. In addition, multiple pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation were introduced in the past year.
A wave of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment
Morrighan Nyx, an organizer for the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), has organized grassroots protests and other community events to push back against what Nyx describes as “large scale demonization campaigns”.
“There has been an extremely large effort or campaign to try and stigmatize the LGBTQ community,” Nyx said. “And with that, it has included large scale attacks against pride, against pride organizations and pride events, especially here in Idaho.”
The previous year, chair Dorothy Moon for the Idaho Republican Party encouraged businesses to stop supporting pride.
“Last year, again, groups including Idaho Republicans, publicly attacked Boise Pride Fest and then tried to harass sponsors into pulling their money out of pride,” Nyx said. “And a month or two later, we saw multiple hate crimes targeting LGBTQ people here in the valley.”
Despite this, Boise Pride is set to have a record number of attendees, according to Boise Pride executive director Donald Williamson.
“It’s gonna be huge this year. There’s a lot more buzz around this year than in the last several years,” Williamson said. “You know if we had 70,000 this year, that wouldn’t surprise me.”
While Boise Pride is set to see its biggest year yet, many local LGBTQ+ people are impacted by last year’s events.
“It creates feelings of anxiety and fear, fear of themselves being the next victim of an attack or the kind of the fear of being out in the community,” Nyx said. “People talk about being afraid of wearing, you know, pride shirts or just shirts — anything that might designate them as a member of the community.”
As a result, many local LGBTQ+ members are looking forward to Pride. Ezra Howell, founder of the Boise Trans Collective, and Peyton Shollenbarger, co-chair of the Boise Trans Collective, are among them.
“I usually go because it’s one of the few times I can go out in the city and feel safe and included, and [be] around other people who are like minded or like me in some ways,” Shollenbarger said.
Howell will be attending Boise Pride Fest for the first time this September.
“I’m really excited to go, to be able to be loud and proud as a lot of people say. But [also] to show off what our organization is doing, and hand out resources and be just a bigger presence,” Howell said.
The fight for LGBTQ+ rights
According to Howell, there has been a growing attitude towards some of the efforts for LGBTQ+ equality in Idaho, treating it as “a lost cause”.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘oh, we should give up on states like Idaho. It’s not worth fighting for’ just stranding all of the queer people who don’t have the resources or the privilege to move out and get to somewhere safer,” Shollenbarger said. “And that kind of sentiment really hurts as someone who, you know, is still in Idaho and choosing to stay in Idaho and fight the fight.”
In spite of these attitudes, Shollenbarger and Howell believe the fight isn’t over yet.
“It’s hard to hear that sentiment because it’s not necessarily true… It’s not only queer and trans people but allies as well that need to amplify our voices and be heard because we can’t do it alone,” Howell said. “Most recently we did have the bathroom bill that was affecting minors [to] be blocked. So there’s still people fighting for us. We just need them to come out and represent us and stand with us a little bit more.”
Nyx shares the sentiment that the fight for equality needs to continue.
“[Pride] is a reminder that people are not alone, and that LGBTQ people are everywhere. [Pride] gives us a community space, which is so very important,” Nyx said. “But I think it also serves the purpose of reminding us about the history of our community. We did not get our rights initially from appealing to corporate backed, progressive, quote unquote, politicians. We got our rights from militant struggle in the streets.”
The history of Pride
Pride is traditionally celebrated in June, in remembrance of the StoneWall Uprising, one of the most well known and significant moments in the history of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. For Nyx, Pride is a reminder of that history.
“The reason why Pride is so important today is [because] it’s a reminder that at the end of the day, it is not going to be elections or which nonprofit you support that is going to decide whether or not we have rights,” Nyx said. “It is going to be the product of committed organization and struggle in the streets of our community. that is going to decide whether we are able to reject this campaign of hatred and division and fear.”
Dr. Lisa McClain, a professor of History and Gender Studies at Boise State University, believes that the media attention has shifted people towards being supportive of the LGBTQ+ community at a local level. According to McClain, while media and news voices may have become louder and more hostile, not all community members feel the same way.
“Based on what I see and hear from ordinary people out in the community, I do not
believe attitudes have become more negative in character,” McClain said. “Much of the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and media rhetoric has actually moved many ‘fence-sitters’ toward greater support of LGBTQ+ people because of what they view as unfairness and injustice.”
McClain anticipates that the anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments will continue, but LGBTQ+ members are able to build communities easier and work together to support each other through the internet.
“LGBTQ+ people have come a long way since Stonewall. The LGBTQ+ community is better informed, better organized and better supported by allies than ever before,” McClain said. “They are fighters who have a strong sense of the rights and respect to which they are
entitled as human beings — the same as all human beings.”
Boise Pride is entering its 34th year, and has changed significantly since over the years. At the first Boise Pride, participants had to wear brown paper bags over their faces to hide their identities.
Now, tens of thousands attend Boise Pride, and according Williamson, other surrounding communities have begun to hold their own Pride fests as well. East Idaho, South and North Idaho, Sun Valley, and Moscow all had pride festivals this year.
Despite everything that has happened in the last year, Williamson believes that people are more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community overall.
“I would say that the overwhelming sentiment across the country is one [of] more acceptance and inclusivity. Voices that have been maybe targeting this community the last couple of years are louder but they are the minority,” Williamson said. “That is not the overarching sentiment within the community, and the support we’re getting from our sponsors, the community, local businesses and people that turn out to the festival every year proves that.”