Editorial/Opinion

EDITORIAL: You Can Do Better, Eugene Pride. Here’s How.

Okay, so, Eugene Pride happened Saturday. 

Instead of writing an “objective” article about how it was, I have decided to just write another editorial — because true “objectivity” would do nothing more than obscure how, plainly, wrong this is. 

Before Pride in the Park: The Damage Was Done

Prior to the event, and following “How to Make Pride for Straight People” about Eugene Pride’s new—and whether they acknowledge it or not—anti-kink rules, several members of the kink community reached out to Double Sided Media

Because, while Eugene Pride can say that they “are not anti-kink,” they actively banned kink-related gear. Citing “trauma,” the organizers of Eugene Pride have failed to consider that a lot of kink-related gear—such as pup hoods or fursuits—provide comfort and security to those wearing them. 

At least two pups from the Portland area—-which, by the way, is the home of Portland Pets and Handlers—who were planning on attending decided not to, saying that they no longer felt welcome. 

“As a new pup and someone new to kink, I’m still exploring [and] learning what I can. Opportunities to do so are rare, and even fewer are safe places to learn,” said Pup Noah. “Any event in which expression is not only allowed but encouraged is valuable, and by banning gear, Eugene Pride has not only removed a safe space for like-minded individuals to learn and connect, but [have] also removed a vital element of Pride that has been there since the beginning.” 

In the end, he said that “it feels like a spit in the face.” 

Pup Wicca, also from the Portland-area, said, “Honestly, Pride is supposed to be a place of self expression and freedom and celebration of the things that make us different. Kink has always been a huge part of Pride, starting back during the original riots that led us to the freedoms we have now.”

“Banning [kink gear] from Pride is against the founding concepts of Pride, and against a long standing tradition of freedom and expression at Pride,” they said. “I personally don’t want to support a pride where self-expression is banned.”

A screenshot of a Facebook direct message provided to DSM that alleges that a rogue PR person was responsible for the list of rules.

So, good job, Eugene Pride. Your idea for being inclusive of everyone managed to actually  drive away others from what would normally be considered a “safe space.” 

But what actually happened? In a Facebook direct message provided to DSM by a Eugene resident who wanted to attend but was concerned about the rules, one of Eugene Pride’s board members replied that the rules “went out without the PR person telling anyone that she was going to do it.” 

I’ve heard the “it was the intern” excuse too many times to count.

People commented on the Facebook post throughout the day in defense of kinks and kinksters — but Eugene Pride didn’t want to hear it anymore and turned off commenting on the post. But first, they offered a public mea culpa in the comments:

It is clear that both the vagueness of the rules and some of the wording we’ve use has caused both confusion and hurt. While that was never our intention, we see that it was the impact. We are sorry for the ways that our mistakes caused harm and left people feeling excluded.

We are working on clarifying the spirit of the rules (so to speak) so that we are both more precise about the expectations and more aware of terminology/language.

We appreciate the education and thoughtful feedback. Unfortunately, we also received some posts that crossed a line so, in the interest of keeping this a conversation instead of an attack, we have turned off comments for the time being.

Our inbox remains open and we hope to have a deliberate conversation at our next meeting about these issues so that we can find solutions that will support the entire community. We will be collecting the feedback given here for that discussion and we invite you all to participate in person as well.

Eugene Pride, via Facebook

It didn’t matter, though. The damage was done. By 10 p.m. the night before the event, a Change.org petition was filed titled “Anti-Kink Eugene Pride Committee should resign!” 

A Pup’s Pride Almost Gets Him Kicked Out… of Pride

By 10 a.m., there was a colorful crowd of people ready to march from Spectrum—Eugene’s Queer bar—to Alton Baker Park. 

Shortly thereafter, Eugene’s own Antifa Pup appeared in protest of both the kink ban and also the ban on political speech. Shirtless, wearing a harness, and his black and camouflage hood, he held a sign. On one side it said “Silence = Death” with a pink triangle and on the other side, another pink triangle with text that said “Pride Isn’t About Making You Comfortable.”

The inverted pink triangle, or “die Rosa-Winkel,” was the symbol gay prisoners in Nazi death and concentration camps were marked with on their uniforms. The mark singled gay prisoners out for sexual exploitation by both SS guards and camp “kapos” — along with physical abuse by fellow prisoners. Later, in the 1990’s Queer and HIV/AIDS rights group Act Up reclaimed the symbol as Queer life was, once again, under attack.

It was only a few minutes before Eugene Pride staff members, targeting the only person in kink-related gear, walked up and requested to take a photograph of him so that “they’re team knew they were here.” 

A land acknowledgement and a few speeches followed before the group set off on their march with the Eugene Police Department leading the way. That being said, considering how many officers were present—at least six or seven motorcycles—it felt odd that the Ferry Street Bridge couldn’t have been closed off. Instead, the march was funneled onto the bridge’s narrow sidewalk — there’s still a pandemic, right? 

At the park, I saw Antifa Pup—naturally—beeline to the stand-up sign that outlined the rules. He wanted a picture with it, so, of course, I obliged. I took his phone and he kneeled down beside it, leaned his arm onto the sign, and flipped-off the camera. Talk about a photo opportunity, right?

Antifa Pup kneels down next to the posted rules that state “No gear or paraphernalia” and “No political or religious messages outside of approved area.” [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

Then I left to go walk around. 

I knew, considering the posted rules, to keep an eye on Antifa Pup, so I wasn’t gone long and did a lap around the tents. 

Speaking of tents, there were many of them. Notably present was Fiery Fursuits, a Eugene-based fursuit maker. Notably absent was Breathe Toys, a local business that handmakes high quality kink gear. They had to miss the event for an unrelated reason but were, especially, upset and voiced their frustrations on the Facebook “rule” post. 

“No one took the time to tell me that there was a ban on kink gear. Pride has roots in kink. It’s supposed to be about telling the haters to kiss off. Now this. Please stop using my logo and business name on your pages.”

I circled back, though, and I’m thankful for it. When I returned back, I saw Antifa Pup being encircled by security personnel as he spoke—calmly—to board member-at-large Marlie Heberling who stated that she wrote the Facebook posts and rule signs. A volunteer named Temple then said he was “threatening.” Security was eventually told to back off by whom I presume to be a supervisor. 

Antifa Pup speaks with staff under the main pavilion while security surrounds him. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

“You’re about to throw me out of Pride for having a sign,” said Antifa Pup. 

Instead, he was pulled aside by the board’s vice president, Vincent Mays, to continue his discussion away from the tables under the main pavilion. Antifa Pup reiterated that he was deemed “threatening” and “unwelcome” by staff for his kink-related gear. 

Mays explained that the rule was put in place directly because of him and blamed the vague wording on being short staffed, limited time to plan the event, oh, and white supremacists.

Yes, you read that right. 

Despite—from what I have been able to find—little to no mention of white supremacists at Eugene Pride in any local news article, it did actually happen in 2019. It happened following the conclusion of the “God, Guns, and Trump” rally when militia-gear-clad men—presumably Three Percenters as they acted as security—showed up at Eugene Pride. Naturally, tensions arose and Mays said that he was threatened with a machete. 

As Mays said, the board decided to use vague language — and that seemed to be the biggest factor in what happened. Don’t get me wrong, though. Mays was clearly not happy about what had happened. He said that kink gear wasn’t meant to be included, and was visibly surprised when told that the Facebook replies specifically called out “pup play” and “BDSM gear.” 

When all was said and done, Mays said that these valid concerns will be brought up at the very next board meeting, and Antifa Pup was allowed to roam about the event. He only stayed for another two hours-or-so. 

After all, it can get awfully hot inside a pup hood. 

Visions of a Future Eugene Pride 

Going forward, Mays assured that all of this will be brought up at the next board meeting and Antifa Pup said that he wants to be included in the discussion and organization of next years’ event. 

Here’s what I say, though. 

I want to see future Eugene Pride events be all inclusive — and actually make an effort to not only include, but cater to, the kink community. After all, the Eugene-area, at least according to FetLife.com—a website designed to link people with similar kinks and fetishes together—has thousands of kinksters. 

Portland Pride, which not only includes a weeklong festival but also a parade, is in June of every year — as are most of the nation’s Pride events being that it’s Pride Month.

Why not make it so that the Queers, kinksters, and Queer kinksters from up the interstate can come down to Eugene and celebrate a couple of months after? Even better, the Queers, kinksters, and Queer kinksters of southern Oregon can come up! 

Let Eugene Pride be another example for kink acceptance — and it doesn’t have to be a Folsom Street Fair-type event. 

It doesn’t have to be all about sex, and it doesn’t have to be a raunchy X-rated event. It can be a fun time for all kinds of families and people of all ages, and there don’t have to be rules covering someone’s personal expression.Not only do I want to see furries have a booth and thrive but I want to see the pups thrive, too. I want to see a space with mats where pups can mosh. Bring in a ball pit. Pups love ball pits. 

I want to see our bondage community have a space, too — like, really have a space. I want to see more of the leather community. I want to see a built-up, but sturdy, metal or wooden structure with rope bunnies hanging off of them. They deserve this space, too. 

How is any of this not kid-friendly? Have they not been in a ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese before? And what’s wrong with learning a few knots? They teach them in Boy Scouts, don’t they? 

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