Boise Pride Parade, June 1997, taken by Deborah Graham, MSS 192 Collection on Gay Life, courtesy of Boise State University
By Alisha Graefe (she/they), a queer archivist at Boise State University
The 2023 AASLH Annual Conference will gather on a serendipitous weekend as the city will be celebrating its 34th Boise Pride. Due to COVID-19, Boise moved its Pride festival to September which they have retained the last few years. Despite various setbacks and legal battles, the Pride festival has seen record attendance, being a place where queer Idahoans can still gather and celebrate openly in downtown Boise.
While downtown Boise may look a little more gay friendly than normal September 8-10, Idaho has historically been a tough state to be out in. While there have been highs and lows, triumphs and setbacks, queer Idahoans continue to exist in the foreground of Idaho history. We exist in the margins, in the rural wide open spaces of Idaho, and throughout the political landscape.
Before the first Pride Parade was hosted in 1990, Idaho had its first gay bar by 1976 called Shuckey’s, a drag court which began in 1980, a gay community center in 1983 with its own monthly gay newspaper (now called Diversity), a PFLAG chapter in 1986, and the Gay Rodeo Association in 1988.
Since 1990, LGBTQIA+ Idahoans have experienced a plethora of struggle and heartbreak. Community members are still fighting to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Civil Rights Act at the same time that anti-transgender bills have been signed into legislation. While current queer Idahoans are still fighting for civil rights protections and struggling to feel safe within the state, our predecessors have won many fights, including a hard-fought battle for gay marriage passed in 2014, defeat of the 1994 Proposition One that would have prevented LGBTQIA+ individuals from receiving minority status in the state, the election of the first out gay person to Idaho’s state legislature, Cole LeFavour in 2004, and the Shoshone-Bannock tribe hosted its first LGBTQ+ Two-Spirit Awareness event in 2019.
Political activities and activism have prompted the founding of many organizations that still exist today in the state. A few include:
- The Community Center (1088 N. Orchard St) founded in 1983
- Add the Words, founded in 2014
- ACLU of Idaho
- North Idaho Pride Alliance
- Inland Oasis
- Wassmuth Center for Human Rights (777 S 8th St)
- Boise’s Pride Foundation
These organizations have created community over the years within Idaho and continue to fight for LGBTQIA+ civil rights year after year.
Queer Idahoans have continued to find places to gather, whether that be drag courts hosted by the Imperial Sovereign Gem Court of Idaho, the pride festivals hosted across the state (Boise Pride Festival, Coeur d’Alene’s Pride in the Park, Palouse Pride in Moscow, Sun Valley Pride), Treefort Music Fest’s Dragfort events every March, or gay bars. At one time, Boise had five active gay and lesbian bars. As of today, the Balcony Club (150 N 8th St, Ste 226, Boise) and Somewhere (3544 W Chinden Blvd, Garden City) are the only two active gay bars (Somewhere bar being the only gay-owned bar).
Boise State University has been actively collecting queer Idaho history and retains the bulk of these resources throughout the state – including dresses worn by the drag queen, Martini, papers from activists and queer politicians, oral histories, Boise Pride Parade photographs and planning documents and more.
If you would like to learn more about Idaho’s LGBTQIA+ history please visit Boise State University or visit any of the remaining LGBTQIA+ organizations in Idaho:
Boise State University Collections
Boise Pride Parade, 1995, MSS 211, Your Family, Friends, and Neighbors, courtesy of Boise State University
MSS 211, Your Family, Friends, and Neighbors Records
MSS 176, Brian J. Bergquist Papers
MSS 192, Collection on Gay Life in Boise, Idaho
MSS 328 Cole Lefavour/Nicole LeFavour Papers
MSS 245, Douglas E. Flanders/”Martini” Papers
Idaho LGBTQ Oral History Project
MSS 375, Donna Harwood / Lion’s Pride Papers
MSS 342, Dean Worbois Papers
MSS 183, The Community Center Records
MSS 227, Dallas Chase Papers
MSS 224, No On One Coalition Records
MSS 303, Triangle Connection Records
MSS 188, Spontaneous Productions Records
Active LGBTQIA+ Organizations
The Community Center
ACLU of Idaho
North Idaho Pride Alliance
Boise Pride Festival and Parade
Editor’s Note: The pre-registration deadline for the conference is Friday, August 18. AASLH members receive the greatest discount. After this date, registration rates increase to full prices and registration will only be available in Boise.