At least in 2017, the annual Pride parade and Civic Center celebration on Sunday isn't going to be just about straight teens and allies wearing rainbow socks.
SF Pride announced Monday that this year's LGBT Pride Parade is going to be led by "a large collection of resistance groups displeased with the lack of LGBT acceptance and support, and the imminent threats to destroy recent human rights gains." This opening parade contingent, entirely on foot, will follow the traditional Dykes on Bikes and bicycle contingents, and will consist of an array of groups including the Bayard Rustin LGBT Club, SF Black Community Matters, Justice for Mario Woods, African Human Rights, DeGenderettes, Bay Area Queer People of Color, Guardian Group, Action Action, Indivisible, International Migrants Alliance, Mission High School Queer Students Alliance, Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, and the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. Also included will be several local unions and a cohort from The Brady Campaign that will include survivors of last June's Pulse nightclub shooting.
Says SF Pride in a release, "In January of this year, the SF Pride Board of Directors began discussing how to express these growing concerns [with the new administration in Washington]. After careful consideration, they collectively made the decision to lead off the 47th Annual Parade with a protest contingent. Eschewing the usual floats and music, representatives from about 20 diverse organizations will lead the Parade with an all-on-foot March down Market Street. Highlighting concerns ranging from women's rights to immigration policies and the profiling persecution of African Americans, these voices will lead the normally celebratory event with a political statement reminiscent of the very milestone it commemorates The Stonewall Rebellion."
This is a refreshing change and one that is sure to garner some national press, particularly in light of complaints within the LGBTQ community about a lack of diverse representation in Pride events which this year bubbled over with fights about adding brown and black stripes to the iconic rainbow flag and in light of complaints in recent years (including my own) that the Sunday Pride celebration feels increasingly dominated by young, albeit accepting straight people.
Just this past weekend the New York Times published an op-ed that expressed this same idea, with writer Krista Burton noting, "You don’t hear much about Stonewall at Pride events. At my first Pride, in 2003, there wasn’t a hint of anger that I could see. Righteous fury had been replaced by corporate-sponsored floats; nearly naked gay men threw glitter sunscreen into the crowd while Nelly’s 'Hot in Herre' blared."
SF Pride further announced that immediately following this opening protest contingent will be the "We Fought Back" contingent, "comprised of 1977-78 SF Gay Freedom Day organizers who challenged the Briggs Initiative and notorious homophobe Anita Bryant."
Pride weekend, which we celebrate simultaneously with New York, Seattle, and multiple other cities on the last weekend in June in order to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, was once a celebration of newfound gay freedoms and a protest about the discrimination and homophobia that LGBTQ people faced with far greater intensity four decades ago. While huge strides have been made, and Pride weekends are traditionally now more about partying and shows of corporate support for LGBTQ causes, the past year including both the election and the Orlando shooting have been a wake-up call to the community that complacency is more dangerous than ever.
All this makes me want to actually go down to the parade this year for the first time in about a decade, and maybe that's saying something.
The parade kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, June 25, from Market and Beale Streets.