The year was 1975. Gerald Ford was in the White House and disco was enjoying its heyday. I was a 4- year-old boy in preschool and quickly coming to the dreaded realization that I was not like the other boys. I was different. I didn’t want to play the games they played or do the things they did. I was drawn more to what society considered traditional “female” activities. After that, I spent years feeling confused and alienated…. yearning to find the peace and comfort of fitting in.
Fast forward to the year 2006. I knew the name they called me; I knew that I was gay, but I still didn’t feel that I belonged. Then I started working at PopCap Games. At once I started feeling something… I was beginning to discover what community and acceptance looked and felt like. Being gay or different was not an issue for my co-workers. They liked me for who I was — not what I was.
In November 2012, the fine citizens of the state of Washington legalized same-sex marriage. I was both stunned and proud. Then, on June 26, 2013, the Unites States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and sent Proposition 8 from California back to the lower courts with instructions to repeal. These are historic landmark wins for the LGBTIQ community. Luckily for Seattle, the Pride Parade was scheduled for the weekend after these announcements and PopCap was an official parade sponsor.
Organizing the parade this year was such an honor. It was a lot of hard work, but knowing that PopCap’s parent company EA is such a large supporter of diversity and inclusion and LGBTIQ rights gave me the strength I needed. Well, that and the tremendous support I received from my family at PopCap. We had over 106 people register to walk in the parade. That is almost 33% of our Seattle workforce! Feeling overwhelmed at the response, I quickly called for employee volunteers to help with preparations. In typical PopCap fashion, I had top-notch co-workers who met weekly for over two months to help plan the parade.
In a nod of thanks to the citizens of Washington, we decided to have two of our male zombies from PvZ marry each other in the back of Crazy Dave’s pickup truck. The officiator would be none other than our custom drag queen zombie! Our team really came together to make this happen. My co-worker Otis had a contractor friend who built the “weddin’ chapul”, marketing gave us chuzzles, Core Franchise provided bubble machines and beads. PvZ and Bejeweled provided gummies, t-shirts, figurines and games. Everyone did their part, including former co-worker Sharon, who not only walked with us but also donated 1000 Otter Pops to the cause. I was more than verklempt.
The day of the parade arrived and the weather report said the high temperature would be 88 degrees. This is a heat wave in Seattle! Even under a high-heat advisory, staff, family and friends came together and walked through the streets of Seattle giving swag away to eager people lining the streets. Music was blaring, people were laughing and smiling and rainbow colors and glitter were flying. Three times during the parade we stopped and married our gay zombies to the delight of the crowd. We had prerecorded the marriage track with the talented audio department at PopCap. At the end of the 12-block parade route we were exhausted, dehydrated and exhilarated. We wanted this celebration of acceptance and community to continue! After the parade, we cohosted a party with Queer Geek! Seattle at the PopCap offices. Over 100 LGBTIQ gaymers from around the city ate pizza and ice cream and played games, all commenting on what a great and historic day we shared. After 37 years, I knew that I had found a home and community and felt that I belonged. Let the healing begin!
A huge THANK YOU to my family at PopCap Games, my family at EA (who is sponsoring 7 Pride Parades worldwide), and our Seattle community. We’ve come a LONG way babies!
- Written by PopCap Employee James Bernert
Two Zombies gettin' married at the Weddin' Chapul on Crazy Dave's truck.
The PopCap Seattle team walked with Pride in this year's parade.
Who wouldn't want this Zombie to officiate their wedding?