In celebration of Pride Month, Multnomah County employees marched from the North Park Blocks in downtown Portland to Tom McCall Waterfront Park in the 2023 Pride Parade on Sunday, July 16. The festival is held each year to celebrate LGBTQIA2S+ communities in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
The parade follows a proclamation by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners declaring June Pride Month in Multnomah County. Pride Month came later in the year than usual in support of Pride NW’s decision to move their annual festival to July in reverence for and deference to the many community celebrations in June, including the commemoration of Juneteenth and the Delta Park Powwow.
“Our LGBTQIA2S+ employees are part of what makes this organization so strong, so amazing and so able to serve our community,” said Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, who was joined at the parade by Commissioners Susheela Jayapal and Sharon Meieran. “When it’s important to show up to support them and to support our larger community, we want to be there for it. Being present at the parade — no matter when it’s held — is such an important thing for Multnomah County.”
Staff from various Multnomah County programs had a strong presence at the festivities to let the community know about the wide array of services the County provides.
“It’s our responsibility to show support to our community and let them know that we're here for them,” said a County Human Services employee who was providing resources to help combat isolation among older LGBTQIA2S+ adults.
Griffin Pahl, who works at the front desk of the Health Department’s Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Clinic, said that the County clinics “serve so many people in the LGBTQIA2S+ community and so many people here have barriers to access to other kinds of care.”
Pahl continued, “It’s really important that we’re here because we spread lots of information about sexual health: not just about what to do if someone gets an STI, but also how to prevent STIs and how to keep the community safe.”
Jen from the Health Department’s Quality Management Program wanted the LGBTQIA2S+ community to know that “we’re inclusive; we’re here. Behavioral health services can be tailored. People from the LGBTQIA2S+ community can work with a clinician that identifies the same way they do, has lived experience in behavioral health and addictions. We provide responsive services that meet people where they’re at.”
“Our motto is ‘all are welcome here’ and we really want the community to know that everyone is welcome at the Multnomah County Health Department,” added Health Department Interim Director Valdez Bravo. “We have such a strong commitment to the LGBTQIAS2+ community in all the work that we do. So many of our employees are members of the LGBTQIAS2+ community as well and we want to make sure that they know that we have their backs and we support them.”
Multnomah County Elections staff helped get people register to vote, answered elections questions and informed community members about their voting rights. When asked why it is important for the Elections Division to be present at Pride, Scotty Sherington, a Voter Education and Outreach Specialist, responded that “the central thing is that our work is nonpartisan, so we support every community.”
Library staff signed people up for library cards and told them about library services.
Library employee Issac spoke to how libraries are often a safe space for queer and trans youth and adults.
“As a trans employee and as a member of the trans community, it’s really important to see that we have that community,” Isaac said. “And especially with the political climate we have now on a national level, I think it's really important that the County steps up and shows that we're going to show up for our community.”
Nikki, who also works at the Library, shared that she wants everyone to know that they are welcome at the library. “This is our community. Folks that are at the libraries are here at Pride as well.”