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We sat down with Joshua Hastings, Vice President of Yakima Pride, to hear more about his experience here in the Yakima Valley and share ways to get involved with the local LGBTQ+ community:

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Joshua grew up here in the Yakima Valley in the early 90s. “I knew that I was gay pretty early on,” Joshua says. “But I struggled in school – there were no resources and a lot of discrimination and homophobia.” Joshua felt that he couldn’t be his true self in his hometown, so he moved away to Seattle at the age of 19. This helped him immensely – “I was surrounded by others, walking in Pride events and HIV/AIDs walks, and it made me stronger and more resilient to deal with those remarks and judgment. It helped me stop thinking about what other people thought about me.”

Joshua’s involvement with Yakima Pride from day one has been to build a more inclusive community here in Yakima that allows youth to come into their own WITHOUT needing to leave home. “Move away for a new job, for your education,” Joshua says. “But don’t move away to be yourself.” Yakima Pride has many goals and some of them are to encourage local LGBTQ+ youth to speak out and feel comfortable as themselves, but it’s also about encouraging allies in the area to speak out and advocate for the community.

Joshua’s time away from Yakima didn’t end in Seattle – in the early 2000s he moved to Arizona, where he again found himself building a supportive community. He started an LGBTQ+ movie social group, connecting with members every Wednesday to see a movie. It eventually grew to 4,000 members and taught him a lot about himself and his community. “We can have fun and also make change!” he says. What started as just a movie club turned into a group that also went to parades, marches, wrote their senators and pushed for legislature changes. He’s always working to bring that same spirit of joy and change to the Yakima Pride organization.

In 2017, Joshua met his partner, Kaimu, and they moved back to Yakima. Moving back to Yakima was a wild experience – Joshua found himself reestablishing himself in his original community, but as a totally new person. He and Kaimu struggled to find any sort of an LGBTQ+ community in the area – he heard whispers that there had once been a pride celebration, but wasn’t able to find much info until he was introduced to Cristina Ortega (Yakima Pride’s current founding president). Cristina convinced him and Kaimu to get involved in the pride parade & festival, initially working in the background, then in  2019, Yakima Pride became certified as a nonprofit. The rest, in Joshua’s words, has been history.

Now, Yakima Pride is passionate about visibility and calling attention to the most urgent opportunities for change. Focused on both helping out in the current community, and documenting the LGBTQ+ history in the  area. Some cool things they’re doing now? Last month they celebrated Rainbow Prom. For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer students, it can be a challenge to feel like they belong. Yakima Prides’ founding president decided to start a new annual tradition called “The Rainbow Prom,” where attending LGBTQ+ youth are welcome and safe to be fully themselves. Plus, they’ve been working with the Yakima Valley Museum on a project to document LGBTQ+ gatherings of the past – largely done by an individual who passed away this year, Kenneth Lewis. There’s not a lot on record so they’re working on building that up – be sure to follow them on Instagram to learn more about this cool project.

Moving back to Yakima has been a struggle, but it’s also been incredibly inspiring to see the way the community has changed – and the ways Joshua himself has. “I don’t feel like I have to hide,” Joshua says. His goal has been to continue to bring that same change and energy to local LGBTQ+ youth here, and to encourage them that they can make change right here, rather than feeling they need to leave. “Yakima wants to be a better place, and we can move forward,” Joshua says. His ultimate goal? “Yakima could be an amazing gay destination! All these wineries and breweries? We could really MAKE IT the Palm Springs of Washington!”

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How can you help?

Be loud! Speak out in support of the local youth and LGBTQ+ community here. “Remember, the LGBTQ+ people who live here in Yakima didn’t just get off a bus from Seattle and show up here. They’re the children of children born right here in the Valley for generations, and we’ve always been here.” A great way to stand up and show your support? Join this year’s Pride Parade on June 18!

Other ways to help:

  • Volunteer at the Pride Parade and Pride Day at the Fair
  • Volunteer at The Space, a gathering place for Yakima-area Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning, and allied youth between the ages of 13 and 23.
  • Get involved with Yakima Pride throughout the year – not just during pride month! Follow Yakima Pride to learn more about their mission and ways to get involved.
  • Want to expand your workplace’s DEI efforts? Yakima Pride has been consulting on diversity training in the workplace as well! Contact hello@yakimapride.org to inquire about these trainings.
  • Come by and meet the Yakima Pride team at our yearly June Community Pint Nights – $1/pint of our Pride IPA will be donated back to Yakima Prid

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