A crowd holds up rainbow flags at an LGBT Pride festival. One flag that says Born This Way and is held higher than the rest.
Photo by Bruno Aguirre on Unsplash

Making a Difference: Thank You to the ASL Interpreters and Happy Pride

Times are troubling.

Sometimes it seems that the weight of the world is about to come crashing down.

But amidst a buildup of heartbreaking events worldwide, I found a brief reprieve.

For the first time in years, I attended local Pride events. First in Portland, then Beaverton. As I observed the drag queens, musicians, and Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus artists, my eyes strayed to the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters at the front of the stages.

While watching them sign at each event, I was struck with these intense rushes of gratitude.

Interpreting, perhaps especially ASL interpreting, is more than a job. It’s a lifestyle. And Pride is so personal for so many of us, it adds an extra layer of emotion and energy. How selfless of them to show up in the name of accessibility.

Pride in Portland

On the big stage set up on Portland’s waterfront, the interpreters were captivating as they took turns signing along to the music of the artists’ sets. They made it look effortless as they swayed, though I knew it wasn’t an easy job.

Participating in live events in any capacity requires large expenditures of energy. Add in the concentration necessary for interpreting, and you’ve got a recipe for exhaustion. I could feel their strength.

Pride in Beaverton

At Beaverton Pride, the interpreters worked in the heat to deliver the performers’ messages. The artists and interpreters poured their hearts into the show. I could feel love and acceptance cascading from them in waves.

I couldn’t tear my eyes from the stage in either city, so I didn’t see whether others appreciated the interpreters as much as I did.

Certainly, not everyone shares the same passion for language and its equitable access that I have, but I’d guess that most care to some degree. After all, that’s what brings us together for Pride: equity, inclusion, and the safety of community.

ASL interpreters have been rocking Pride for years

ASL interpreter David Cowan signs to Beyoncé’s “Get me Bodied” at Atlanta Pride in 2019.

This isn’t the first time that ASL interpreters worked with artists at Pride festivals.

Beyoncé’s performance at Atlanta Pride in 2019 lives rent free in many of our brains. David Cowan, the ASL interpreter for the show, is an icon, truly.

He has been an interpreter since 1984, and began interpreting at Atlanta Pride in 2000. Interpreting at Pride clearly holds a special place in his heart.

“My favorite and most memorable event was to see the interaction of deaf people in the LGBTQ community,” Cowan stated in an interview with the Georgia Voice. “They were able to participate in the community events without having to worry about the communication barriers.”

It also won’t be the last time we see ASL interpreters at Pride, as we continue to move toward being a more accessible and equitable nation.

I want to offer a heartfelt thank you to ASL interpreters at Pride. Your presence makes the festivals better.