Note: David Welton took these photos July 8, celebrating our colorful South Whidbey folks who take pride in being their authentic selves. Thank you, David, for sharing them.
“Lots of color. Lots of good stuff,” David wrote in an email he sent with photos of the South Whidbey Pride Parade. The link for Pride Parades mentions the national event’s history and significance.
Jill Edwards helped organize the event. As the mother of two adult LGBT+ kids, she wanted the parade to take place, since it had not been resurrected since Covid.
From left, Grace Edwards, David Edwards, Jill Edwards–one of the Pride Parade organizers, David’s mother Judy Leise, and the Edwards’ adult child Max, who identifies as trans nonbinary, at July 8 South Whidbey Pride Parade

“[Pride] has been a big part of my life the past two years,” Jill said in a recent phone call. “I kept waiting for something to come on the calendar. I reached out to [Langley] Mayor Scott. Finally, I gathered people who were interested in helping me. Jeff Natter and Em McLoughlin are among the ones who helped. They are amazing. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

I spoke with Jeff Natter a little later in the day. His enthusiasm in describing the positive reception the Pride Parade received by the community brought me to tears, given the hateful headlines and anti-inclusive laws being proposed these days.
Jeff Natter, one of the organizers of the 2023 South Whidbey Pride Parade, said the love and support for the LGBTQ+ population in the South Whidbey community was abundant while planning and participating in the parade.

“It was very funny how it started,” Jeff said. “Jill and I have known each other from the dog park for months and months. She brings her dog Ruby and I bring my dog Otis. Mayor Scott suggested why don’t we put on the parade. My husband and I live here on Whidbey. I said I’m in. None of us had the slightest experience in putting a parade on before. Jill did the heavy lifting. We had to get sponsors, permits. It all came together. One of the most heartwarming parts of this story is everywhere we went–we asked for sponsorships, $100, put a poster in the window–we got the response, ‘This is great!’ We far exceeded our expectations.

Senator Marko Liias, who represents Edmonds, Everett, Mukilteo and Lynnwood, and is an advocate of LGBTQ+ rights, served as the Grand Marshall of the South Whidbey Pride Parade July 8

“We thought we’d have a five-minute parade with five or ten participants,” Jeff added. “Parade Grand Marshall Marko Liias had a blast. We had 30 groups, about 150 people. The hardest thing, Em, Jill and I tried not to cry because we were so overwhelmed by it all. The parade went off without a hitch. No protestors. An outpouring of love and celebration from the entire community. That’s what we need and that’s what we got.”

State Senator Marko Liias represents Edmonds, Lynnwood, Everett and Mukilteo. First elected as state representative in 2008, he was appointed to the senate, representing the 21st district. He is serving his third term. One of his priorities is making the state safer and more inclusive for LGBTQ+ youth.
Beck Diamond of Meander Dance Collective, grooves in the July 8th South Whidbey Pride Parade, while fellow dancer in striped shirt Hunter Fox cheers her on
Some of the colorful folk participating in the South Whidbey Pride Parade.
Langley Chief of Police Tavier Wasser hugs Wolfgang Nyland, one of the South Whidbey Pride Parade speakers. Wolfgang spoke about a lifelong challenge of transitioning from female to male. Chief Wasser spoke of Wolfgang’s bravery

Em McLoughlin texted from where she is traveling in Canada: “I’m the office administrator for Readiness to Learn and the office manager for the South Whidbey Community Center,” she wrote. “And have done a lot of work to make the campus feel celebratory and inclusive. Come check out our year-round curatorial pride flag display! Last year, I was part of Leadership Whidbey, where I connected more with Jeff.

Autumn Duenowis flows with feathers and a rainbow colorful costume at July 8 South Whidbey Pride Parade

“One of the reasons for joining the Leadership Whidbey program was to gain resources to create more community and connection for LGBTQIA youth,” Em added. “One of my guiding mantras is ‘be who you needed to be when you were younger.’ Jeff and I had chatted about creating a pride event, and when he reached out to me with his friend, Jill to plan a parade, I was ecstatic.

“With all of the anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ legislation and churning, hateful media at every corner, it became so crucial that we, as a community, showed up, embraced and celebrated pride on South Whidbey.

A couple at the South Whidbey Pride Parade July 8

“We have a huge amount of queer folks and youth on the island, but it has always felt very disconnected. We want to change that! Community is transformational and knowing that your community cares, loves, and celebrates you in your authentic self, is truly life saving.

PFLAG members of a national organization supporting the LGTBQ+ community show their colors July 8 at the South Whidbey Pride Parade

“Last year’s healthy youth survey showed that one in four LGBTQIA identifying youth will attempt to end their life,” Emily texted. “I want queer kids to grow up to be queer adults, and that takes a village by the sea. I am a proud member of the LGBTQIA community, and identify as queer, and one thing that lifts my spirits when the world feels crushing, is remembering that we build our resilience through connection, and that joy is an incredible act of resistance. I think we accomplished so much with our event, and the joy and community felt on that day will stay with me forever! I’m so proud of our event and I’m excited to make it bigger, queerer and even more joyful next year”

Madison Elizabeth stands tall on stilts in South Whidbey Pride Parade July 8
Dave Paul, left and Langley Mayor Scott Chapin walk in the South Whidbey Pride Parade July 8
Twirling rainbow ribbon at the July 8 South Whidbey Pride Parade
Madisun Clark with Senior Services–celebrates with a rainbow streamered umbrella
Drummer David Stern lends rhythm to South Whidbey Pride Parade July 8
Clyde Theatre owner Blake Willeford’s signs reflects the Clyde’s take on inclusivity
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