With her bright smile and warm personality, Jacque Dennee-Lee — who’ll serve as marshal of the Capital City Pride Parade on June 23 — helped many in Olympia find comfort with LGBTQ+ people.
Dennee-Lee (whose first name is pronounced “Jackie”) worked from the early 1980s to 2010 as a bus driver with Intercity Transit, one of many out lesbian drivers at the time.
“She was a very likeable, warm person and never hid who she was, and as a result, she was the first lesbian that a heck of a lot of people ever knew,” said Pride organizer Anna Schlecht, who nominated Dennee-Lee as marshal. “She was the touchstone for a lot of people who were not yet out to themselves or their families. For most of the 1980s, she was the person who helped people realize, ‘I can be gay, and I can have a job. I can have a home. I can be liked. I can see my future.’ ”
“I’ve always been out about my identity since I’ve been in Olympia,” said Dennee-Lee, who moved here in the late ’70s and worked at the Rainbow Restaurant, a gathering place for the LGBTQ+ community, before taking the job at Intercity Transit. “Driving a bus, everybody could see you, and you could see everybody, so you would wave and blow kisses, that kind of thing. I got close to a lot of my passengers who were quite aware of my orientation.”
When she and then-partner Jamie Lee were expecting a child — Lydia Dennee-Lee, now 22 — passengers brought gifts. All three were stalwart supporters of Capital City Pride, with Lydia growing up as a regular at marches and demonstrations and Lee starting the festival’s popular children’s activity area.
Jacque was also a labor activist, working with the Amalgamated Transit Union during her years as a driver. Lydia, who’s graduating this month from Fairhaven College in Bellingham, is devoted to working for social and environmental change and credits her two moms with inspiring her activism, Jacque said.
When she found out she’d been chosen as parade marshal, Jacque Dennee-Lee was both honored and terrified. “I really don’t like to have the focus on me,” she said. But she’s thrilled both her daughter and former partner will ride with her in a vintage convertible, sharing the spotlight as they’ve shared a dedication to pride over the years.
Capital City Pride Parade
Noon – 1 p.m. Sunday, June 23
Fifth Avenue at Water St., Olympia