More than 100 people gathered on the corner of Fifth and Washington in downtown Olympia on Saturday, June 3, to celebrate the state’s first — and possibly only the nation’s second — crosswalks painted the colors of the transgender flag.
“We’re making history,” Mayor Cheryl Selby said. “We’re one of the first communities in the United States to have a trans crosswalk in their community.”
Several city officials joined the public around the crosswalks, including City Manager Jay Burney. He said the crosswalks serve as a visual reminder that embracing diversity and each other can create a more thriving world. But it means standing together for that goal for more than just Pride Month, he said.
Mayor Selby said Olympia chose to honor the transgender flag at a time when the trans community has been specifically targeted with harmful legislation and an increase in hate crimes around the country. She said so far this year there have been 350 bills introduced that target trans and nonbinary people, which she said is double the previous year’s record. And people are looking at Washington for safe haven.
“We’ve got to stand strong and hold fast to our values as a community heading into 2024 when they’re going to be putting human rights on the ballot,” she said.
She said it’s important that Olympia take a strong stand in making the trans community visible, and the crosswalks are just the first step.
Capital City Pride president Natalie Coblentz said the completion of the crosswalks stands as a testament to the community’s resilience and “unapologetic strength.”
“We are here, we are fierce and we’re painting the town with our journeys,” Coblentz said. “Let the world see Olympia as a shining example of queer liberation; a place where love knows no bounds, and acceptance is our mantra.”
Tobi Hill-Meyer is the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program manager for Olympia. She shared a story about growing up in fear of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
She said 30 years ago when she was 9, there was a state vote on whether same-sex couples could be parents. It wasn’t until years later that she found out her two moms wouldn’t be affected by the legislation, but at the time it crushed her heart and inspired her to advocate for change. She said she later led a walkout at her middle school in protest of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
Hill-Meyer said she now has a child of her own, and her family is fearful of traveling to states where it’s possible her daughter could be taken from her.
She said Washington has been designated a safe state, and Olympia is one of few places with LGBTQ+ liaisons on the police staff. And people are moving from around the country to seek refuge here.
But she said at the same time, there are people even in Washington who are fighting to take away trans rights.
“These crosswalks are a visible commitment by the community, and when they are backed up by action at the state and local level, it lets everyone know that the trans community is an important part of our city, and we will not allow hate to take control here,” she said.
City officials handed out fliers to event-goers to sign up for a survey on living, working and daily experiences in Olympia. It will be available June 14.
According to the flier, anonymous answers will be collected to help guide the city’s priorities. Sign up to have the flier texted to a phone number at www.truclusion.com/olympiatext.