November 8th, 2018

Winter Sunlight

Well, that's honestly pretty neat

In our local elections back in October, Fairbanks elected Alaska's first transgender and intersex politicians (a trans woman and an intersex person who uses gender neutral pronouns) to the city and borough councils, and I had literally no idea. It didn't even make the news; they just reported the winners and that was that.

It's actually a pretty cool article about our town. While Alaska is a very red state (our statewide elections on Tuesday went pretty much as expected - Republicans all the way down) and Fairbanks is well known statewide as the most conservative of our minimal number of cities (compared to Anchorage and Juneau), I think this points out how conservativism in Alaska doesn't really track with what Americans commonly think of as the Lower 48 version and in particular, Fairbanks is .... Like, I know that we are not some kind of utopia, but we really do have a lot of live-and-let-live tolerance on an individual level if not a political level. More than you'd think from how we tend to vote in national elections. Like the article says:

Although Fairbanks doesn’t have a full-time gay bar or a yearly Pride parade, the LGBTQ community commands the largest contingent at Golden Days, an annual march celebrating the city’s founding in 1903. Drag queens pass out candy to kids alongside an enormous 30-foot rainbow flag.

One of the reasons I love being in Fairbanks is that we’re a part of the community,” said Ottersten, who moved to the city three years ago. “LGBTQ people don’t have bars up here not because we couldn’t but because we don’t feel the need.”

“Every bar is our bar,” they added.

(FWIW, it makes a good politico soundbite but a) that's not precisely why gay bars exist, and b) I do have a vague recollection that we actually did have a gay bar here in the early 2000s but it didn't last very long. I think we're just not big enough of a town to have the clientele to support one. Anchorage has a couple. That being said, Fairbanks is a pretty chill place and I remember going to things like drag shows and Rocky Horror and the like at local bars back in the 90s and never really feeling like it was in any way unusual that we had those things as a redneck-ish small town in a rather backlashy sort of time.)

Oh, and also:

“I like to joke that it wasn’t a queer person who got in their airboat one winter and drove it up onto the street to a strip bar,” they [Ottersen] claimed. “We’re not the weirdest people in town. We’re just not that big a deal in the ultimate scheme of things.”

I have also just learned that Alaska was the first place to vote down an anti-trans bathroom bill in a popular vote earlier this year, down in Anchorage. I remember all of that going on, but I didn't know it was a national first.

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