When many Pride events went virtual last year, Sydney Lyman was disappointed. She’d recently realized she was bisexual and had been excited for Pride.

But she wasn’t just sad that she wouldn’t get to celebrate Pride in-person — it also made her realize she didn’t have anyone to go with. Lyman hadn’t even finished her freshman year at the University of Washington when the pandemic hit. She hadn’t had a chance to make friends and she has severe social anxiety, so she spent much of her sophomore and junior year alone, going to class online, in her apartment.

“I distinctly remember feeling really sad about not being able to attend,” Lyman said. “Part of that was I hadn’t really told anyone, and also part of that was I didn’t want to go by myself.”

Since then, she has come out to her family and friends. But almost all the queer people she knows are online: this June, she may end up leaving town and attending Pride in Utah with her sister.

When the pandemic hit, everyone had to retreat into virtual spaces. For queer and questioning people who spoke to The Seattle Times, the isolation gave them time, and virtual connection gave them online spaces, to think more deeply about their identities.

Now, as most people come back to in-person gatherings and Pride this year looks more like it did pre-COVID-19, people who came out during the pandemic are collectively experiencing their first sort-of-normal Pride — and with it, a mix of excitement, trepidation, freedom and fear.


“This is the Pride where we’re seeing everyone in their full identities,” said Krystal Marx, executive director of Seattle Pride. “Being online for the last almost three years now has allowed people to really fine-tune what that means for them.”

Marx was hired in 2019 as Seattle Pride’s first full-time staffer, so in a sense she’s been planning this Pride since then. Hoping to welcome everyone in their full identities, Marx said this year’s Pride parade and Pride in the Park events were designed with people with disabilities in mind, and with the help of groups like Taking B(l)ack Pride.

“I really see this as the Pride that I think we have all been wanting, in a way — not just over the last two years,” but for a long time, Marx said.

But for those people who came out when the world was virtual, coming out to Pride, in person, is inspiring a wide variety of emotions.

“I felt I wasn’t in control of my life because I was hiding this”

Before COVID, it was easy to keep your home life separate from your social life. But the pandemic scrunched those two things together — and for Emily Monteiro, it made her realize she wanted to be honest in both. This will be her first Pride where she’s out to the whole world.

Monteiro was out to her Seattle friends and even married to a woman before COVID hit. She simply never posted any pictures of herself at Pride events, because she wasn’t out to her family and friends back home in Brazil.


Monteiro grew up in a “very strict Latino household” in Sao Paulo, where her father is a pastor. 

“I grew up doing everything my parents wanted,” Monteiro said, wearing the clothes they wanted, going to the schools they picked. “I like to think that I’m, like, super easygoing, so we didn’t have any conflict because I always accepted what they asked of me.”

She didn’t start dating a boy until she was 22, and by then, she was going to university and meeting a variety of other Christians who had different interpretations of the Bible. 

When Monteiro spent a year as an exchange student in Boston, she went to churches that affirmed gay and lesbian couples. For her second exchange year, she came to Seattle and attended Plymouth Church, whose main photo on Google is of the distinctive oval building on Sixth and University lit up with rainbow lights.

Seattle is one of the queerest cities in America — more than one in 10 people identify as LGBTQ+, rivaling San Francisco, according to market research giant Nielsen. When Monteiro moved here, Seattle had a lesbian mayor and public schools superintendent. The state legislative district in Seattle’s urban core boasts an elected seat that’s been held by a gay person possibly longer than any seat in America, Seattle Weekly reported in 2016.

Monteiro decided she wanted to stay in Seattle and broke up with her boyfriend. She thinks she may have subconsciously known she wasn’t straight, but she also just felt more free in Seattle.


“The comfort of living abroad is this freedom you have to just live your life without caring a lot about what other people, that knew you your entire life, would be thinking of the decisions you make, the life you’re living,” Monteiro said.

The first time she kissed a girl, she knew for sure. In 2019, Monteiro married another Brazilian woman who is a U.S. citizen. She didn’t tell her parents.

When the pandemic hit, it became harder to keep her family in her hometown from knowing about her wife in her home. When Monteiro FaceTimed her parents, her wife could overhear them asking if she had a boyfriend or when she was going to start dating a man again. Monteiro knew that hurt.

But she was worried about coming out particularly to her father, whose opinion she’s always cared deeply about.

“This was very scary for me because they always held me in this high place,” Monteiro said. “So, I tell them and then our relationship is over.”

And the first COVID winter was hard. Monteiro was overwhelmed with the pandemic, just going to work and going home, and feeling like nothing was happening. Around this time last year, she turned 29.


“I was so close to my 30s and I felt like I was not in control of my life because I was hiding this,” Monteiro said. “I was not OK. So I did what I always do when I want my parents to know things but I’m not brave enough to confront them. I told my sister first.”

Monteiro’s parents spent 45 minutes on FaceTime trying to convince her she was wrong — 45 minutes in which Monteiro didn’t say a thing. But after a year, they started talking regularly again. Monteiro, who turned 30 last month, is currently visiting them in Brazil for the first time since COVID hit, and when she comes back, she’ll be attending Pride in Seattle.

And if she gets a picture that looks cute, she’ll post it for everyone in Seattle and Brazil to see.

“It’s harder to push it off”

Of course, Pride can also be intimidating, stressful and nerve-wracking. For people who saw themselves reflected in queer communities online, it can be harder to see yourself reflected at Pride.

That’s true for Rhys Hutton. Hutton didn’t just realize he was trans during the pandemic — he also came to grips with having autism, and that he’d spent much of his life masking to the world as a woman without autism. Loud events with lots of bodies pushed together in tight clothing aren’t enjoyable for him, and entering queer spaces often means cisgender people saying “Hey, girl” and “Yas, queen” to him, which he doesn’t love. 

Marx, of Seattle Pride, said that to provide a space for people who get overwhelmed by the crowds, there will be tents at Seattle Pride events where anyone can come and hang out alone for a time.


“Some circles of our community call them our ‘spoon tents’ — like ‘I don’t have spoons for this,'” Marx said, referring to a metaphor for emotional or physical energy.

Hutton appreciates that and is excited to go to some trans-focused Pride events this year. But the queer space where Hutton sees himself most reflected is actually the app TikTok.

Hutton had known queer people and been to Pride celebrations before the pandemic: He was the founder of the Gay Straight Alliance at his high school and thought he was a bisexual woman for a long time. But Hutton didn’t know many trans people and had only heard of trans women. For a long time he didn’t realize people could “trans their gender” from woman to man.

“I thought, obviously everybody wants to be a boy; they get to wear pants, and no one makes ‘get in the kitchen, make me a sandwich’ jokes at them,” Hutton said. “I was just dating dudes that I wanted to be like, I didn’t want to be with.”

Then, the pandemic hit. Hutton went through a breakup with his boyfriend and moved to Seattle. He started spending more time on TikTok, and — when he was intrigued — the TikTok algorithm started showing him more videos by trans masculine people. And not only did Hutton begin to understand he could be a trans man, but that trans men didn’t have to act masculine or be muscular.

Suddenly, instead of being surrounded by cisgender, neurotypical people, Hutton was seeing people he identified with.


“Not having to mask for the world for so long definitely contributed to how I am now,” Hutton said.

For Alex Koren, the pandemic also made it harder to distract her from thoughts and feelings about her gender identity that she’d always pushed aside. But it was “trans Twitter” that helped her see who she really was.

Years before Koren came out as a trans woman, her queer friends were all convinced she was a gay man. Growing up in New Orleans, Koren had always tried to act “masculine” so as not to be bullied. In the 2000s, Koren’s queer friends didn’t consider whether she was transgender.

“They were absolutely convinced that ‘you’re definitely gay, you’re definitely gay, you’re definitely gay, because you exhibit these feminine tendencies,’” Koren said. “Gay man does not describe me.”

When the pandemic came and Koren’s online time spiked, she found herself spending more time on Twitter. Koren was swamped in political work for much of COVID, but after managing communications for M. Lorena González’s mayoral campaign last year and seeing it end unsuccessfully, Koren finally had some time to think. She started following more trans people on Twitter and seeing them just live their lives, not as caricatures but as real people, helped Koren realize that she saw herself in those lives.

“As I slowly became more aware of trans people,” Koren said, “especially through the internet through the course of the pandemic, I was like, ‘these experiences describe me.’”


She started thinking more about this tweet she’d read. It said something like, “if you persistently say to yourself, ‘Oh, it would be fun or interesting if I woke up tomorrow and was the opposite gender,’” there’s a pretty good chance you’re trans.

“Now that I think about it, especially before the pandemic, I would think that a lot, and then I would distract myself and push that thought out of my head,” Koren said. “When you don’t have distractions, and you’re just sitting at home all the time, that thought keeps coming back more intensely. It’s harder to push it off.”

Koren has been to Pride before and even enjoyed wearing gender-nonconforming clothes to celebrations — but this year will be the first when she’s out and in a space where she feels accepted.

“COVID forced us to look at ourselves in ways that we haven’t”

Today, the LGBTQ+ community is different than it was when the Stonewall uprising paved the way for the modern gay rights movement in June 1969. Nowadays, more than 7% of the U.S. population identify as something other than straight, a majority of them bisexual. That’s double what it was in 2012, according to a recent Gallup poll. Ten percent of millennials and more than 20% of Generation Z identify as LGBTQ+.

The conception of what a queer person looks like and how queer people live has changed too, as the community has become more inclusive. Most young queer people today think of their identities as multifaceted — encompassing their relationships to sexuality, gender and monogamy — and fluid or shifting as they get to know themselves.

That means sometimes people come out more than once. And for people who’ve been out during Pride before, if they’re coming out in the whole of their identity now, this Pride will be very different.


Tifa Robles, a diversity and inclusivity program manager at Xbox and co-director of Queer Geek! Seattle, has been “out and loud” as bisexual for more than five years, while married to a man. As a high-profile figure in Seattle’s gaming community, she was proud to model that you can be an out bisexual in an opposite-sex relationship.

Even though Robles knew she was bi when she started dating the man she later married, she pushed her bisexuality “in the closet, to kind of escalate that whole dream of the white picket fence.” The two had a baby together.

Once she started going to queer parties and even Pride events, Robles realized she regretted not being able to date women. She and her husband started couples counseling. COVID hit.

“I think the pandemic kind of forced all of us to look at ourselves in ways that we haven’t,” Robles said. “The pandemic definitely kind of put my relationship in a pressure cooker in a way that made me realize I could be happier.”

Time gave her a chance to realize that she didn’t just want to date a woman: She wanted to have the freedom to date anyone. Robles and her husband divorced, and she came out as polyamorous — to her gaming friends, her co-workers, and her followers on Twitter. Her friends were supportive; some family members were confused and worried. Nonmonogamy isn’t very normalized outside of Robles’ queer community.

But Robles doesn’t mind. She feels she’s living her authentic self for the first time. This year, she’ll be marching in the Pride parade.

“My enthusiasm and passion to be out and proud is stronger than it’s ever been, because I feel like I have the freedom to do that,” Robles said. “And to be as big and bright and gay as I want.”

Clarification: A previous version of this article mischaracterized Rhys Hutton’s identity. Rhys Hutton identifies as nonbinary and trans-masculine.