COEUR d'ALENE - Rainbow flags are hanging above the new exhibit in the Human Rights Education Institute, and just in time to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.
The public was welcome to view the 2014 LGBT Pride Exhibit during its opening reception Friday, which included on-site community advocates and refreshments. It is the first LGBT display in the institute.
"It holds a lot of meaning for us, in that we can be here," said exhibit co-designer Juli Stratton of Post Falls. Stratton, who is also the chair of the Coeur d'Alene chapter of Parents, Friends, and Family of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), said the reception was a great way to bring the community together because "that is what we're about," she said.
The educational exhibit chronicles the history of the LGBT community from well before the 1900s to the current date. It provides definitions and contexts for symbols and flags used within the LGBT community and highlights important LGBT people and events of the second half of the 20th century. Visitors can expect to read about the Stonewall Riots in 1969, the first pride march a year later, the origin of PFLAG in the '70s, the AIDS outbreak in the '80s, the surge of hate crimes in the '90s and the political movements of the early 2000s to present day.
"The '60s and '70s were huge because that's where it all started to say we need to be treated fairly," Stratton said. "At least to be treated as second-class rather than third-class citizens."
Di Carlin, president of the Coeur d'Alene Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity, conducted research for the display. She said the way to teach people about diversity is to expose them to new ideas and information.
"You can't expect people who don't know anything about (LGBT) people to be understanding of something that they've always been taught is wrong," she said. "They need to have good quality information presented to them in a non-confrontational manner, and that's what we're trying to do."
Patrick Pellett of Clarkston, Wash., was the first of several visitors to peruse the exhibit.
"I know a lot of the broad strokes and the big, impactful events, but I didn't know a lot of the in-between stuff," he said. "What this display does is fill in a lot of gaps in my knowledge and just gives me more context to understand. It's a wonderful display."
Stratton said the exhibit, especially the section on modern political movements, shines a light on the equality the LGBT community is seeking and the battle its members have fought.
"We're standing up and saying, 'We want equality,'" Stratton said. "We want to be treated just like everybody else. We are just like everybody else. All we want to do is live our lives to our fullest potential.
"I'm baffled as to what people are so afraid of," Stratton continued. "I can't answer it except for what they don't know, they're afraid of. That's why we have to do exhibits like this, to show people we're just like everybody else."
The 2014 LGBT Pride Exhibit will be available to the public until June 30. It was made possible by the partnership of several local organizations, including the Gender and Sexuality Alliance of North Idaho College and the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.
The HREI is located at 414 Mullan Road.