EDITORIAL: Kink Is Welcome Back at Eugene Pride
Let’s just cut to the chase and acknowledge the—probable—elephant in the room: I really wasn’t happy with the Eugene Pride Festival last year. But that changed as this year’s event was more inclusive than I, honestly, could have expected.
What was excluded last year you may ask? Kink was.
Due to some sort of breakdown, kink—specifically puppy play—was called-out as inappropriate for Eugene Pride and was prohibited. Not only was it prohibited by vague rules but the specificity that came through Facebook replies from the organization to upset community members. As a result, a one-pup protest occurred during the march and festival that year.
This year’s event was a complete 180-degree reversal with the organization’s decision to only enforce city park rules and not impose any themselves. The resulting effect was immediate: attendance had substantially increased and kinksters felt welcome.
From the beginning at the rally and march from Spectrum Queer Bar, there was a pack of pups with their handler. Last year, security would’ve been on them as soon as they showed up. Instead, they were welcomed.
They thoroughly enjoyed the march, too.
Once the march had arrived at Alton Baker Park for the festival, it was made clear that this event was going to be unlike any previously. Not only was the festival twice the size of last year’s but it truly felt inclusive of the kink community — and it didn’t have to become any less family-friendly.
At the festival, there were no less than four furry booths including Islandhedgehog Studios, Fiery Fursuits, Kabber Creations, and NaritaCoree Fursuit Creations. At least half a dozen furries, in their full fursuits during hot weather, walked around throughout the day, too.
I, personally, witnessed several—probably close to a dozen—wholesome moments as I walked around the festival and saw children walk up to the furries for a hug and, sometimes, a picture. The children and their families loved them.
As someone who is a member of the kink community, I reached out and spoke with both vendors and visitors about their experiences this year.
Island Danger of Islandhedgehog Studios said that, although they didn’t attend last year, “I definitely felt a lot more welcome this year than last when I was vending” and that they were “happy to see gear restrictions changed.” They additionally said that they were “really surprised how many furry vendors they let in this year.”
“Overall I got a much more ‘true to Eugene’ vibe this year,” Danger said. “It was definitely still the family-friendly event they wanted without becoming devoid of the people who make Pride what it is.”
Another vendor, Phoenix G. with Fiery Fursuit Studios, also said that this year’s event was more inclusive.
“It was certainly nice to see more artists in my field active in the festival, I don’t know how many of them were there last year when I vended with them but it was definitely very exciting to see more creators popping up,” Phoenix said. “As far as inclusiveness goes, my team and I all felt very comfortable with the environment the event put on, for the most part everyone was very respectful and interactive, and it was very nice getting to see people of more identities coming out and being represented.”
Jennifer Rauch of NaritaCoree Fursuit Creations said that she hadn’t attended last year’s event but found that “compared to other pride events I’ve been to, this Eugene Pride felt very inclusive.”
She said she had seen a lot of push-back towards members of the asexual community and that had kept her from going to Pride events until recently. “Thankfully, so far, everything I’ve been to has felt welcoming,” she said.
Kabber Creations’ Kabber Seifert attended Eugene Pride once before, in 2019, but said that this year’s event “definitely felt bigger and more vibrant” and that they “saw all kinds of people wearing all kinds of stuff, and nobody batted an eye, if say, a pup walked by.”
And pups did walk by! That pup and handler group that was at the rally and march continued through the festival. There were a few others, too.
Bard, a Eugene-based member of that pack with their handler, half of which came from the Salem area, said the event was “extremely welcoming.”
“Everyone, from young to old, every gender and sexuality, they were excited to see us,” Bard said. “They would light up and smile, call us cute, ask for pictures of or with us. It felt so wonderful to be so accepted and have so many people genuinely excited and happy to see us.”
Another pup that traveled to Eugene—from Portland—was Bark Ruffalo, Service Dog.
“I can say that it was my first time at a Pride event outside of Portland and it was the first time I’ve cried during a Pride parade,” Bark said. “It wasn’t happy tears, [though]. I just sort of realized for the first time that I live in a wonderland, and sort of realizing—even [though] I technically knew this already—that the rest of the world isn’t as accepting and I’ve never had to deal with being afraid or hiding who I am, so, it was a really powerful eye opener for me.”
JaxTheSkunk—a Eugene-based furry who visited this year—said that, compared to last year years’ event, it was “night and day for me.”
“To see that the attendance of people that came had doubled along with the amount of vendors was amazing to me,” Jax said, in general. “It really felt like you could see the entire scope of what Eugene has to offer in terms of its LGBTQIA+ scene.”
Kink-wise, Jax not only thought that Eugene Pride had redeemed itself but even excelled that of Portland.
“With kink gear being allowed this year compared to last year, it was very refreshing to see friends in full kink gear presenting themselves how they wanted to be seen without offending or harming anyone attending,” he said. “I also noticed that the furries really showed up this year, even at Portland pride—which I was very lucky and grateful to have been given the chance to attend—they had zero [emphasis intact] furry vendors at the festival, compared to Eugene Pride where there were four active fursuit vendors and community photoshoots galore.”
Another furry that I spoke to, Luna Lyte, visited the festival in 2021 and, even wearing only their fursuit head, “immediately felt hostility from other attendees.”
“While at the event, I was asked by a stranger whether I needed someone to accompany me for safety,” she said. “After asking why the offer was made, the person explained to me that the event was “unsafe” for those wearing kinky or unusual attire.”
Luna said that the majority of the discomfort during the event had come from a group of protesters [the RV Saltshakers] that had been allowed to take up space by the food vendors.”
This year, though, Luna said she had a great time.
“During this year’s pride, I arrived at the event unsure of whether I should wear the fursuit, but felt encouraged by others wearing “kinky” attire to put it on,” she said. “Wearing my full fursuit this year was an incredible experience. I was met with a warm welcome by other attendees and staff, and did not have any instance where I felt unsafe or uncomfortable.”
Luna also added that she “was stopped frequently and asked for hugs or photos, something that hadn’t happened the year prior” and that “perhaps the most refreshing part of the experience was seeing so many others expressing themselves and wearing “kinky” and unique attire.”
After speaking with these vendors and kinky, furry, and hooded visitors, it became clear that I wasn’t alone in how I felt about this year’s Pride festival. It was fantastic.
This was what Pride should’ve been last year and what it always should be — an inclusive space for everyone in Queer community. Family-friendliness doesn’t have to be sacrificed. As I wrote in one of last years’ editorial, Eugene Pride isn’t expected to become the Folsom Street Fair where anyone under 18-years-old needs to be excluded, no.
Eugene Pride should be inclusive of kink and, after seeing this year’s event, it truly is. I can’t wait to see what’s in-store for next year.