Changes afoot for SF Pride events
by Matthew S. Bajko
Revelers attending the various Pride events this weekend can expect to find plenty of changes ahead of the celebration's 40th anniversary next year. From a revamped Pink Saturday party in the Castro to a more politicized parade, organizers have taken a fresh approach this year to San Francisco's Pride.
Coming a month after the state Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban voters passed in November, the parade is expected to be enthused with a more political overtone. The theme this year is "In Order to Form a More Perfect Union," and the grand marshals run the gamut from marriage equality proponents to Lieutenant Dan Choi, who was discharged from the military this year for being gay and has become a vocal advocate for seeing President Barack Obama end the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bans LGBT service members from serving openly.
This weekend will also mark the last time Pride Executive Director Lindsey Jones is at the helm. Jones announced earlier this year she was resigning the leadership post and will depart sometime in July, when the search to find her replacement launches.
Jones said that this is a bittersweet time for her because as she is about to embark on new adventures, she will miss the Pride organization and the people she has worked with for the last several years.
"I have had the honor of working alongside an amazing team, community members and leaders, stakeholders, elected officials, business partners, and city departments as we have steadily built new capacities into the organization and its infrastructure," Jones wrote in an e-mail. "I am proud of the work we have accomplished together and believe this work will have a lasting impact."
Jones also said that while last year's Pride had a joyous celebratory nature because at the time, same-sex couples could legally marry in the state, this year the loss of those rights will be felt.
"This year's Pride, on the heels of two back-to-back devastating losses – the passage of Proposition 8 and the recent defeat in the [state] Supreme Court – could be something different," Jones added.
She said that community members will illustrate what this year's Pride means to them through their chants, signs, and performances.
"I am curious to see (and feel) the tone and mood they set," Jones said.
The first noticeable difference to this year's Pride festivities will be seen Friday night (June 26) when the sixth annual Trans March departs from Dolores Park for a route that will take it through the Mission rather than the Castro District. Organizers opted to redirect their march away from the city's gay neighborhood, and rather, travel through the predominantly Latino enclave because it is where many transgender people call home.
"A lot of trans people can't afford the Castro and live in the Mission," said organizer Fresh White.
White said the 10-person committee overseeing the event also decided to reroute the march because of the "tremendous amount of violence that happens to transgenders in the Mission." The hope is that the 10,000 people expected to attend will raise the trans community's visibility in the neighborhood.
Walking into the Castro, he said, was "sort of like walking into the closet. The Castro is a safer place, a beautiful space. Walking into the Mission makes it more of a march and less of a parade. Also, it is where a lot of people who voted yes on Prop 8 live."
The event begins at 4 p.m. in the park, located at 18th and Dolores streets, and features transgender activist and chair of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission Cecilia Chung as the keynote speaker, with the march kicking off at 7 p.m.
Organizers will be asking for donations to help cover the $10,000 cost of the event, and a post-march party will be held at El Rio, 3158 Mission Street. Entrance ranges from $5 to $50 for the party, a benefit for the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project.
Saturday, June 27 marks the 17th annual Dyke March, and unlike in years past, organizers of the Dolores Park event have worked closely this year with city officials and police to plan for the rally and march through the Mission Dolores and Castro neighborhoods.
This year's theme is &quo
The organizers wrote, "We're angry at the courts that accepted the tortured logic of creating unequal categories of citizens. Loving whoever and however we choose is a human right. Committing to any chosen relationship is a human right."
Festivities begin at 3 p.m. with music and speakers, while the march leaves the park around 7 p.m. and will end up on Market Street in the heart of a revamped and expanded Pink Saturday street bash held by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Along with a new area called Dyke Landing, the nighttime party and fundraiser for local LGBT nonprofits will feature food vendors, beer booths, and multiple stages. Headliners at the main stage include dance diva Kaci Battaglia and boy band V Factory.
New this year will be a global village stage serving up beats from around the world, special surprises, and a disco ball hanging over the crowd. Depending on the weather, the Sisters expect anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 revelers to show up for the party, which begins at 6 p.m. and ends at midnight.
"We have a few surprises up our sleeve down by the main stage, including a laser show," said spokesnun Sister Barbi Mitzvah.
The party plans nearly collapsed earlier this month after the police department refused to grant the needed permits due to concerns about the changes this year. But after pressure from the community and District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, a compromise was reached to allow for the Sisters to move forward.
"I will say we haven't slept," said Mitzvah. "We are very enthusiastic and the community has been reaching out to us to assist us."
To ensure for a safe and fun event, the Sisters are instituting a zero tolerance policy at the entrance gates this year with bans on outside beverages or containers, large bags or backpacks, pets, wagons or strollers. The idea is to reign in excessive and underage drinking at the event. Those 21 and over will need to have a valid ID and be wearing a wristband in order to be served alcohol.
Attendees will be asked for a $7 donation to help defray the estimated $150,000 cost of the party. All proceeds will be distributed to local LGBT charities.
"If everything goes smoothly, we plan to continue producing this," said Mitzvah.
While pre-parade activities have seen changes, the 39th annual LGBT Pride Parade takes place as usual on Sunday, June 28, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The route along Market Street will end at 8th Street, where marchers and onlookers alike can then go to the festival in Civic Center Plaza and the surrounding area. There is a $5 donation requested to attend the festival.
Nearly 200 contingents are expected to strut their stuff, representing everything from LGBT families to go-go dancers.
The festival also takes place on Saturday, June 27 with entertainment on the main stage beginning at noon. Some of the other stages will also have programming on Saturday.
Numerous entertainment stages on Sunday will offer something for everyone, from women to leather to Latino to hip-hop.
Headlining the main stage Sunday will be Korean pop star BoA and Solange Knowles, the sister of superstar Beyonce.
This year's parade grand marshals include marriage equality advocates and spouses Molly McKay and Davina Kotulski, marriage equality advocate Andrea Shorter, gay promoter Joe Hawkins, gay and civil rights activist William Beasley, and journalist Helen Zia.
Due to space constraints, see articles about the grand marshals online at ebar.com. For complete information on San Francisco Pride, visit www.sfpride.org or pick up the Inside Pride guide that is available around the city.