Pride, politics, and protest

How I spent 2018 Pride weekend in San Francisco

Members of the Resistance contingent in the 2018 Pride Parade hold a banner reading #SFPrideRESIST. All photos by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Pride weekend in San Francisco can bring out mixed emotions in the more marginalized and progressive members of the LGBTQ community. Having lived in this city for 15 years (and the greater SF Bay Area for over 25), I’ve come to feel that the occasion is more of a pinkwashed corporate beerfest for gawking tourists and cis white gay men, rather than a celebration of the resilience of our community in the face of ongoing oppression and violence. Others who feel similarly, and who object to the presence of police as well as mega-corporations, have opted to skip the main Pride parade altogether.

As I did last year, I decided to compromise and march with the Resistance contingent that was set up by the SF Pride Board of Directors as a statement against the repressive policies of the Trump administration. But last Friday, two days before the Pride parade, came the event I was most looking forward to: The Trans March.

Emcees Rexy Amaral, Shawn Demmons, and Melanie “Nya” Ampon speak on stage at the 2018 Trans March.

Each year since 2014, I have come to the Trans March in Dolores Park to watch performances and talks by my fellow trans folks and our allies. Since local politicians were booed off the stage in 2016, they have not been presenting at this event, which is refreshing. Instead, we had talks from invited trans activists, including Jennicet Gutiérrez, who faced harsh criticism in 2015 for confronting President Obama over the detaining of transgender immigrants. Her words were timely and and a good reminder of our country’s legacy of hostility to the marginalized, considering the uproar over the current administration’s treatment of immigrant families.

Activist Jennicet Gutiérrez speaks on stage at the 2018 Trans March.

Also speaking was young activist Gavin Grimm, who faced discrimination and ridicule for the simple human act of using the boys’ restroom as his school. His case, G. G. v. Gloucester County School Board, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which remanded to the 4th Circuit after the Trump administration rescinded guidance that trans students should be able to use restrooms in accordance with their gender identity. Though Grimm graduated from his school a year ago, the case is still going through appeals.

Gavin Grimm, wearing a trans pride flag cape and a T-shirt reading “No Body Is Illegal”, speaks on stage at the 2018 Trans March.

The stage also featured several musical and dance performances, including songs from the “The Red Shades: A Trans Superhero Rock Opera”, which has been very popular with local audiences. I’d seen and enjoyed this show-in-development twice before. I hope they make it to Broadway!

“The Red Shades: A Trans Superhero Rock Opera” on stage at the Trans March. Featuring Leah Ann Mitchell on vocals and composer Adrienne Price on violin.

Dolores Park during the Trans March is one of the very few times and places I feel safe and comfortable enough to go topless. As it was pretty warm out, I shed my shirt for part of the event, but put it back on before joining the march. As anyone who read my recent story about dysphoria might guess, this was a pretty big deal to me.

I was joined on the march by a couple of fellow Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco members, who happily accepted my invitation to go to a vegan restaurant near the end of the route. The delicious meal was slightly marred by the venue having “Men” and “Women” signs on their single-occupancy restrooms, despite California passing a law that as of March 2017, all such restrooms must be gender-neutral. I didn’t want to confront any restaurant staff about this in person (and diners that evening seemed to be ignoring the signs anyway), but note to self to e-mail them a polite message asking them to update their signage.

A Spanish language speaker at a “Families Belong Together” rally in San Francisco holds a sign reading “Las Familias Deben Permanecer Unidas” while another translates her words for the audience.

Saturdays I usually stay home, especially during Pride weekend when the city is extremely crowded. But I decided to attend a morning rally in support of immigrants, one of many “Families Belong Together” and related actions planned for this month. While a larger rally and march are planned for the nationwide coordinated action on June 30, this Women’s March San Francisco-sponsored event on June 23 was billed as having representation from the communities most affected.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Norman Yee and Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu speak at a “Families Belong Together” rally in San Francisco.

However, to me it appeared this rally was dominated by politicians. Several members of the Board of Supervisors, including mayor-elect London Breed, spoke; some speakers had young children at their sides. Supervisor Norman Yee scored points for openly saying “Fuck you” to Trump, though he looked a bit embarrassed afterward.

Christine Pelosi, standing alongisde her daughter and holding a sign reading “Families Belong Together”, speaks at a “Families Belong Together” rally in San Francisco. Both mother and daughter wear T-shirts bearing the name of Christine’s mother, representative Nancy Pelosi.

Also speaking was Representative Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Christine Pelosi, who brought her own daughter to the stage. When editing the photos I noticed that the signs they and many others were carrying all said “Paid for by Nancy Pelosi for Congress” in small print. This bothered me (I don’t support Pelosi, and normally vote for Greens or progressive independents), until I realized that this notice might have been required. Posters are available for free download under Creative Commons licensing from the Families Belong Together web site in any case.

Activist Olga Talamante speaks at a “Families Belong Together” rally in San Francisco.

Non-politicians did also get to speak, including activist Olga Talamante and several immigration attorneys. In any case, the rally had a good turnout (on an unseasonably warm day; I got sunburned), with over 500 in attendance.

Self-portrait of the author in their San Francisco Mime Troupe tank top.

Sunday arrived, and I headed to the Embarcadero to line up with the Resistance contingent for the Pride Parade. I recognized some of the people there from previous protests, but didn’t have any friends joining me. I decided my San Francisco Mime Troupe T-shirt would be appropriate attire for the occasion, as they’ve been fighting the system for nearly sixty years.

Fortunately, we were one of the first contingents in the parade. Whenever I saw a professional-looking camera pointed in my direction, I raised my fist in a black power salute. You can see me doing this briefly in the full CBS San Francisco video of the event, at approximately 34:19.

CBS San Francisco footage of the 2018 San Francisco Pride Parade.

I didn’t take many photos and didn’t hang around afterward, leaving as soon as we reached the end of the parade route as I was very peopled-out for the week. I respect that some folks just want to go to Pride to have a good time, but I also respect those who boycott it for the reasons I mentioned at the top of this post. Regardless, I can’t stand being around huge, noisy crowds of people, whether they’re queer or not, for more than short amounts of time.

My photos from the Trans March, Families Belong Together rally, and Pride Parade are available on Flickr. Some are also available on Wikimedia Commons. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of my photos, thanks!

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