Friday, June 17, 2005

Violence label pains piercers

Parade denial one thing, stereotypes quite another

This is a tale of two parades and a group of pierced performance artists who thought they'd found the perfect home in one, but were told they'd be better suited to the other.

It's also a tale of perceptions, or misperceptions, and stereotypes.

A group called PURE -- People Undergoing Real Experiences -- was recently voted out of tomorrow's Fremont Solstice Parade, despite a freakout-free precedent last year. Members were OK with the decision. They got it: Having people suspended by hooks on a pirate ship float could scare children, as well as much-needed sponsors.

What they weren't OK with is the suggestion that they'd be a better fit for the Seattle Pride Parade and that they were violent.

"We listened to NPR and it came out as, 'PURE is violent, violent to themselves.' But we told them we're clowns, we're circus people," said Xavier Frost, a member of the body modification-heavy group. "That's what made us angry. The other point they said that tops the entire cake is that they said this is a family-organized parade for the family, so why don't you take what you do and take it to the Gay Pride Parade, it would fit better with them. ... That says to us, 'They're already a subculture, they're already freaky enough, already weird.' "

Neither is the Solstice Parade, but with a reputation for nude bicyclists and giant inflatable penises, it isn't exactly a Main Street USA event.

Because PURE had already participated without incident -- and only one official complaint -- in last year's Solstice Parade, group members thought they'd finally found an accepting public platform.

"I was not under the impression that this was a kiddie parade," said Daif Hahn, one of the founders of PURE. "The whole thing is pretty much about button-pushing. Nudity is completely illegal, yet they're allowed to do it. These are not things you'd see at a normal-type parade."

PURE, which doesn't plan to march in the Seattle Pride Parade, will march tomorrow respectfully in protest -- sans suspensions -- with the blessing of the same people who voted to keep them out.



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