You may have learned by now that Pride Month originally commemorated an uprising. It was a revolt against the institutional forces that sought to control people’s identities and sexualities.
Because there are so many authoritative resources, organizations, and people working to educate the public about this part of history and the continued fight to recognize every identity within the LGBTQ+ community, I’m going to leave the in-depth history lesson to the experts. Instead, I want to introduce you to one of our panelists for The Evergrey’s upcoming virtual pride event with Seattle Gay News — which you can register for right here.
Dee Ireland Lewis founded the first chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in Seattle in 1987. It was only the fourth chapter in the world according to SPI's website. As a gay Black man living in Capitol Hill during the AIDS epidemic, Dee has a unique perspective on the neighborhood and LGBTQ+ community and plenty of stories that illustrate just how far we've come and how far we have to go.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence emerged from San Francisco in 1979 and originated as a group that did community service through their own lens of “ministry.” Decked out in traditional habits and make up, the sisters would make public appearances meant to build community and challenge the world’s perception of LGBTQ+ people head-on.
What is your relationship to Capitol Hill?
I've always lived on the hill since I moved here in March of 1985. I was a Portland, Oregon transplant after I was laid off by the company I worked for. I really didn't know what I was going to do, but I knew two people that lived here. When I told [one of them] that I got laid off, he thought that was fantastic. He said ”Come and stay with us for the weekend, and just for fun Monday morning, come with us to the Four Seasons Olympic and apply for a job.”
So I did just that and I was hired on the spot. And just like that my whole history began here.
After 25 years, it's impossible for me to walk down the street and not know anyone. But [it’s strange] looking back in hindsight to only knowing two people in Seattle and now I’ve lived here longer than any other city in my life. I do love it here... I've made it my best effort to remain on the hill even in retirement. I'm living in senior housing right now on Capitol Hill, which I just adore.