Eugene Pride’s Board of Directors Faces Public Criticism During Feedback Meeting

On Oct. 24, the Eugene Pride board of directors met on Zoom two months after their 2021 Pride event for their October feedback meeting. 

It began just after 2 p.m. and ended about 18-minutes later. 

The public meeting was held in order to receive feedback from the community regarding the 2021 Pride Celebration in August that faced criticism for explicitly banning kink gear, thus excluding kinksters. 

Prior to the meeting, on Oct. 19, the board released a statement on Facebook thanking the volunteers, vendors, and sponsors for their support and briefly addressing the criticism regarding the rules for the event. 

“We would also like to take this opportunity to own our mistakes and apologize to those we may have made to feel excluded from this year’s festival – especially our local queer kink community.  In our rush to get the festival off the ground, we made explicit a “no gear/paraphernalia” rule that was originally intended to keep folks safe after specific incidents in years’ past.  Instead, making this rule explicit (along with some inartful Facebook posts) had the effect of marginalizing parts of our community.  Our sincerest and deepest apologies – we will do better. Pride is for EVERYONE in our large and diverse community, and we celebrate ALL of the many individuals and communities that make up the LGBTQIA+ rainbow.  Please know we will be reworking our rules, and we invite you to contribute as we create new guidelines that keep us safe in a way that is inclusive to the whole of our community.“   

Eugene Pride Board of Directors

Nikolai Serban was the first to speak after the organization’s vice president, Vincent Mays, began the meeting and following introductions by the present board members.

He began his statement by recapping the anti-kink rules that were in place for the 2021 event and said that the rules were reiterated online by who runs the organization’s Facebook page. 

“I found out from both Vincent [Mays] and [former president] Bill [Sullivan] that the person in charge of the Facebook group was Marlie Heberling,” he said. “I spoke to Marlie at the Pride event when we were all out there and [it] got reiterated that she does, in fact, believe that kink doesn’t belong on Pride.”

Serban then spoke about future change. “I believe that that stance is kink-phobic and ignorant and it is inappropriate for someone on the board to have views like that and, so, I don’t speak alone when I ask for Marlie to step down from her position, especially, for using her capacity using Eugene Pride’s name to make such kink-phobic comments on public media.”

Before concluding his statement, Serban quoted Queer anthropologist and author of “Rainbow Revolutions,Jamie Lawson: 

“Pride commemorates a violent explosion of anger against unjust laws that were used to keep queer people in their place, and which justified repeated acts of police and social brutality.

People seeking to understand Pride should ask themselves first, why did those laws exist? What social norms were being upheld every time the police raided the Stonewall Inn, or Compton’s Cafeteria?

It’s because, fundamentally, queer people offer a different view of what sex is from what mainstream, capitalist, Western society wants it to be – reproductive.

Kink, can and is an exploration of sexuality outside of mainstream structures and ‘respectable’ norms.”

Jamie Lawson

“The BDSM or kinky communities recentre sex around pleasure, not reproduction. It’s no coincidence that the leather scene is so closely associated with radical, transgressive queerness – the gay leather aesthetic emerges post-World War II in America and it’s been part of queer culture and Pride ever since.

That kinky, leather aesthetic has been part of queer politics and queer protest since the 1960s – you see it in pictures of early Prides and in the radical protests of the ACT UP movement.”

Jamie Lawson

Following Serban’s statement, Mays reminded those attending about the previously posted apology prior to stating that the rules for 2021 had been “voted down” by the board and were no longer active. He also stated that “it was our past president [Bill Sullivan] intents that those rules not come back in any shape or form or fashion.”

The second, and final, statement from the community came from Jerrid Wolflick. 

Although he said he wasn’t prepared to speak, he began by reiterating that he was at Pride with Niko when the latter spoke to Marlie in-person. Wolflick said that he was “more or less accosted by, not Marlie, but the person standing beside her for daring to think kink should be there, daring to think that it was okay for kink to be there.” 

“Guys, Pride exists because of transgender [individuals], drag queens, and kink. We started the party. We started the protests. You guys came along,” he added. “The kink community, the trans community, and the drag queen community has been at the forefront of this. We always get kicked out as soon as we want to make it acceptable for the public and that’s not okay.”

Wolflick concluded his statement after also saying that Heberling should step down from her position. “I think it was the honorable thing to do last year and I don’t understand why she hasn’t.”

Mays thanked both of the speakers and said that there wouldn’t be any “board action or motions today for this event” but that they will start 2022 event planning in January. The meeting was adjourned after board member Brooks McLain thanked the board for their time and energy to make 2021’s event successful. 

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