By ALEC CLAYTON
This year’s Capital City Pride award for activist of the year goes to Cameron Combs, activist, trans man, writer and president of the Pizza Klatch board of directors.
Combs grew up in Thurston County and went to Tumwater schools. “I know firsthand,” says Combs, “what it’s like to be an LGBTQ+ youth in school without any support from teachers, staff or administration.”
Combs marched in the second Pride march in Olympia in 1992 and worked on Sound Out, a monthly, newsprint magazine for the LGBTQ+ community in the Olympia area. “We did a bit of everything,” he says, “and engaged a lot of volunteers from the community. I coached writers in journalistic practice, edited and proofread, sold ad space, made connections with community groups, did layout, drove the proofs to our printer and did distribution. In the four or five years I was involved in Sound Out, my commitment to the LGBTQ+ community solidified.”
In 2010, Combs became a facilitator for Pizza Klatch, an LGBTQ+ youth support group. Pizza Klatch meets in area schools at lunch to offer pizza, support and discussion with adult facilitators. It also offers professional training to school administrators and staff aimed at increasing awareness and improving safety for LGBTQ+ students. Starting with three schools when Combs first joined as facilitator, Pizza Klatch now meets in a dozen schools from Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater to Tenino and Yelm. Combs joined the board of directors in 2016 and became board president in January of this year.
Concurrent with the early part of his work with Pizza Klatch, Combs began exploring his own gender identity. He says this made it easier to empathize with some of the young people.
“Through this exploration,” Combs says, “I pulled together the threads of a lifelong journey through various gender and sexual identities. And that is the subject of an essay I wrote for Nonbinary: Memoirs in Gender and Identity (Columbia University Press, April 2019): working my way from baby butch lesbian through my politically active dyke years to more and more masculine-identified butch to transmasculine and, at age 50, to nonbinary transgender. Going through puberty the first time was rough. Opting to go through it again at that age was bizarre and well worth it.”
Combs says his parents modeled civic involvement and the importance of community through their work with church committees and groups like Rotary. Since being selected for the activist award, he says he’s been thinking about what activism means.
“What it means to me,” Combs decided, “is that root word, ‘act.’ For me, an activist is someone who sees injustice, sees someone being wronged or someone who needs help and does something to correct the wrong, to give support.”
This award will be presented to Combs during the Pride celebration in Heritage Park.
Capital City Pride
Parade at noon Sunday, June 23;
Award ceremony for Combs in Heritage Park at 4 p.m.
Fifth Avenue at Water St., Olympia