Reporter's Notebook: Connecting a Community with Issues and Services at Boise Pridefest 

click to enlarge - Holly Colwell (far left) gives Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline materials to a PrideFest attendee. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Holly Colwell (far left) gives Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline materials to a PrideFest attendee.
Boise Pridefest, which took place the morning and afternoon of June 20, was an occasion for celebration, remembrance, advocacy and exhibition as revelers arrived in costumes and, sometimes, their bare skins to listen to music, eat, drink and be merry.

The morning began with a Pride rally and parade at the Idaho Statehouse. That's where, months before, the Idaho State Affairs Committee held a bill that would have added the words "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to Idaho's human rights law. It was the 10th year since the beginning of the Add the 4 Words and the first year "adding the words" had been granted a hearing by the Legislature.

Since then, members of Add the Words Idaho have been touring the state raising awareness on the issue. 

Emilie Jackson-Edney told Boise Weekly that during the Add the Words hearing, some legislators had talked about "compromise"—adding religious exemptions to the bill to placate concerns that extending workplace, housing and public accommodations protections to LGBT people would impinge on the free practice of religion. But for Jackson-Edney, "adding the words" doesn't need to be that complicated.

click to enlarge - Madelynn Taylor at the Boise Weekly booth at Boise Pridefest -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Madelynn Taylor at the Boise Weekly booth at Boise Pridefest
"The Legislature wants compromises but we just want to add the words," she said at the Add the 4 Words Idaho booth.

That resonated with Madelynn Taylor, the veteran whose fight to be interred next to her partner at the Idaho Veterans Cemetery has garnered international headlines. During Pridefest, she and other members of the Add the Words movement presented the group's attorney, Dan Skinner, a plaque in absentia commemorating his efforts defending its members after many were arrested during Statehouse demonstrations in 2014.

Nearby, members of Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and Aids handed out HIV test packets while another group offered safe sex kits, including condoms and lubricant, to passersby.

As much as Pridefest was a celebration of Boise's LGBT community, it was also a chance for service providers to reach out to that community. Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline volunteer Holly Colwell said that the hotline and the LGBT community intersect in a way that has brought volunteers like her to the Pridefest every year.

"Gay people are disproportionately ostracized, and they're really, really alone," Colwell said.

The rate of suicide among transgendered people is especially high, with an estimated 50 percent of trans teens having at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday, according to the national Youth Suicide Prevention Program.

When BW spoke with Colwell, she said that she had spoken to approximately 50 people about the hotline.

"There's just a lot of interest," she said.
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