I find the city of Spokane to be quite liberal. You look at how we vote politically, that bears it out. I don’t think the city of Spokane is conservative.
I’ve never been like really threatened [due to my sexuality]. I get sometimes questioned. Occasionally it’s been more abusive, as far as verbal abuse around my gender presentation, because I’m very androgynous. Sometimes I think that people will see me and scream, “Fucking Faggot” and stuff, but they don’t . . . It’s just walking down the street, you just perceive a very androgynous person.
It’s been a while since I felt that. I’m pretty out. I think Spokane has changed a lot in the last decade too. I think you could walk hand-in-hand with somebody of the same gender and still be pretty safe. Then again, you can’t say that for sure. It only takes one or two “yee haws.” And I get kind of belligerent. If I see people acting stupid, I just go, “You are in the minority here. You’re in the city.” You know, we’ve done well as far as the legislation the city has passed. I get very xenophobic: “Go back to Cusick! Don’t come downtown if you don’t want to see gay people, because we’re going to be here!” [Laughs.] I think most people don’t bat an eyelash if they hear you say the word “gay.” It’s just like “Oh, yeah.” [Shrugs.] I think that most people over here expect it. [They assume,] “Of course there are gay people running around.”
I think part of my perspective comes because I travel to places way smaller and more conservative than Spokane. In some of those places it’s more difficult to be out, but I still meet people that are totally out and everybody knows. And it’s a more hostile place than Spokane, like places in Montana or in Central Washington.
The percentage of people of color in the county is still really low, but it was even lower in the ‘90s. It was like less than 10 percent. I certainly never became aware of [a community of gay people of color]. There were so few. Some of the men that I knew, that were African-American men in the African-American churches, were basically choosing the black community over the gay community; [they were] still living very discrete lives and not choosing not to be a part of the gay community. I would hear about that from these guys that I knew, because they were kind of going back and forth between the two communities. A lot of the people of color that I worked with were folks who were either from a minority that there just wasn’t very many of in Spokane, or they didn’t seem to be very involved with their communities of color for whatever reason. They were more involved in the gay community. I think that [in] Inland Northwest Pride and Hands Off Washington, we had in leadership positions some women of color. That was probably a good thing. That was one of those good things that was more about consciousness, which isn’t always [present] in Spokane, because we are just so white. We had a lot of dialogue about the racial justice issues and how that intersected with queer politics. I like to think that helped the whole community, because it happened at several different organizations at the same time.
A reference to Spokane’s 1999 non-discrimination ordinance.
Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson on 20 November 2006.