After 20 years, Fred Swanson is leaving as the Executive Director of Gay City and he released this farewell letter as he steps down. It’s at a milestone moment for the organization as it leaves its home on Pike Street to move to new digs on Capitol Hill at Pine Street and Bellevue, just a few short blocks from the previous home. The non-profit organization has evolved over the years and under the leadership of Fred to become Seattle’s LGBTQ Community Center.
Fred will be missed but, he’s not leaving town; he has a new gig as the Executive Director of the the Highline Schools Foundation in Burien.
His parting letter as head of Gay City:
How does one capture twenty years in a few paragraphs? This week marks the end of my 20 year tenure as Executive Director at Gay City, a transition we announced in January and that was captured so nicely in articles in Seattle Gay Scene and Seattle Gay News. Since those articles covered a lot of Gay City’s impact over the past two decades, I thought I’d take this time to be a bit more personal.
I first fell in love with this organization in 1999 at the Gay Men’s Health Summit, where I was struck by the bold and innovative ways Gay City was organizing community. I was particularly drawn to the way Gay City was refuting the 90s narrative that gay men were all dangerous narcissists, and loved the focus on building gay men up instead of tearing us down. Having struggled with my own identity for so many years, and having internalized the rhetoric that taught gay men in the 80s and 90s that AIDS was our just punishment, I was ready for a new way to conceptualize myself and the community I was a part of.
Over time, Gay City’s focus on the resilience of queer and trans folks and making space for the complexities of queer and trans lives and identities has only deepened my love for the organization. I’m so grateful for the people who have chosen to work here, and for the hundreds of volunteers who have given so much to this organization. I’m thankful for the generosity of coworkers and colleagues, for mentors who have helped me be a better leader, and for the tremendous investment of time, thought leadership and money so many people have made during my time at Gay City. To our partners at the City and County and State who have invested in our work, and the foundations and organizations who have supported us, thank you for trusting us to make an impact. To the LGBTQ+ communities who have made us what we are, I see you and thank you. To my husband of 18+ years and our three incredible kids, your support, love and wisdom guides me. I’m so grateful for you.
Along with the rest of you, I’m excited to see what’s next for Gay City as they launch a new and more expansive LGBTQ+ Center for Seattle. It’s more than I ever imagined we could become when I packed my dog in the car and drove from Chicago to Seattle in 2001 to start this journey, and it’s the culmination of so much of our work these past 20 years. From the early days of building gay men up to the current days of promoting LGBTQ+ self-determination, liberation and joy, I’m so proud of what we have accomplished together, and so grateful for this journey.
About Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center
Learn about the new LGBTQ+ Center, how to get there, and when it will be open here.
With more than 25 years of supporting and advocating for LGBTQ communities, Gay City provides a place for you to be authentically yourself. Our mission is to cultivate access and connections to promote self-determination, liberation, and joy in our communities. We center health equity and are the leading HIV/STI testing provider in King County. For more information, visit gaycity.org and @GayCity on Instagram and Facebook and @GayCitySeattle on Twitter.