Pride announces grand marshals
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Transgender people, a longtime queer housing activist, and a lesbian global rights advocate are the grand marshals announced so far for this year's San Francisco LGBT Pride parade and celebration.
Jewlyes Gutierrez, a transgender teen who gained attention after defending herself in a schoolyard fight, and organizers of the local Trans March, which annually draws thousands of trans people and supporters, have been selected by public vote to be honored at this year's festivities, which are set for June 28-29. Pride organizers announced those honorees Monday, April 7. The rest were announced Tuesday.
Other grand marshals include housing activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who was selected by Pride membership. The board chose transgender activist Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and global rights activist Melanie Nathan as grand marshals, and poet Judy Grahn as the lifetime achievement grand marshal. Neither Griffin-Gracy nor Grahn had formally accepted their selections as of Wednesday morning, according to Pride board Vice President Marsha Levine.
Nathan said earlier this year when she was nominated, "I hope that it will help bring more attention to the international LGBT issues our community should be more cognizant of, especially in Africa."
The public also selected anti-gay pastor Scott Lively to receive the pink brick "award." Each year, the pink brick goes to a group or individual who's hurt the LGBT community. Lively, the anti-gay U.S. activist who was a leader behind Uganda's Kill the Gays bill, beat out nominees including Russian President Vladimir Putin, who's been cracking down on homosexuality in his country, for the Pride distinction.
Levine said that almost 6,900 people placed their votes from late February to mid-March, which she estimated is more than double the number of people who voted last year.
In the non-voting category, Pride officials announced that TV personality Ross Mathews would be among the celebrity grand marshals at this year's Pride.
Individual grand marshals
In January, the Contra Costa County District Attorney's office charged Gutierrez, who was then a 16-year-old sophomore at Hercules Middle/High School in the East Bay, with battery after an investigation into a November fight. Three girls who allegedly attacked Gutierrez, meanwhile, weren't charged.
Gutierrez's public defender, Kaylie Simon, said the teen had been "harassed and tormented ... due to her gender identity," and the charge against her drew widespread criticism.
At Simon's request, a juvenile judge eventually ordered Gutierrez to enter a restorative justice program, where the goal is to achieve reconciliation with the parties involved.
In an email to the Bay Area Reporter , Pride board President Gary Virginia said, "I think the public resonated" with Gutierrez's "plight."
"Many LGBTQ people face similar discrimination when coming out," he said.
In a statement provided to the B.A.R. , Gutierrez said she's "honored" by the recognition.
"I didn't even know anything about SF Pride, and I am shocked that something positive could come out of my situation being bullied in school, as no one should have to go to school in fear for their safety," she said. "Having been selected has given me hope for the future. Thank you for all those who voted for me and I am very grateful and humble for all your support."
Avicolli Mecca told the B.A.R. he was honored at being chosen among "such a great group of grand marshals."
"I am inviting everyone to join my contingent, which will have as its theme, 'Housing is a Queer Issue,'" he added.
Organizational grand marshal
Trans March, this year's organizational grand marshal, started in 2004 in response to the mistrial of the murderers of Gwen Araujo, another East Bay transgender teen. Araujo, who lived in Newark, California, was killed at a house party in 2002.
The march has grown into "the largest trans pride event in the world," according to Tracy Garza, who along with Jamie Rafaela Wolfe is the group's co-chair.
Asked Monday about the Pride recognition, Garza said, "I think it is a great honor not just for the organization, but also for the transgender community in the Bay Area. I think there's a feeling among parts of our community" that transgender people have sometimes been "overlooked, but I think that this recognition definitely reminds everybody in the LGBT community we're all in this together."
Virginia said the honor for Trans March "is recognition that this part of our community still faces the most discrimination in housing, employment, and more. SF Pride is excited to provide a platform for these individuals to educate the public and rally support."
This year's Trans March is June 27. For more information, visit http://www.transmarch.org.
Lively has credited himself as the "father of Uganda's anti-gay movement," orchestrating the development of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, also known as the "Kill the Gays" bill, which originally included the death penalty. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni recently signed into law a version of the bill that includes stiff penalties for LGBT individuals and associates, up to life in prison. Homosexuality had already been criminalized in Uganda's penal code.
Virginia called Lively "obsessively anti-gay" and said, "SF Pride will enjoy exposing this hatemonger and his allies for the evil they perpetuate, and we'll offer actions to counter their work."
Lively declined a request for a phone interview Monday, but in an email exchange with the B.A.R., he said, "The pink brick, symbolic of the bricks thrown by militant 'gays' at police during the Stonewall riots, perfectly captures the irony of bullies posing as victims."
He added, "I've actually already received this award in real life."
According to Lively, a pink paving stone with "Shut down Lively" written on it was thrown through the church window of a school where he was set to give a speech on gay bullying in 2011.
"It was wrapped in a note threatening further violence," said Lively. He provided photos of the window, brick, and note that he claims were connected to the incident.
"The worst bullies in America today are LGBT activists, and I will not stop telling that truth no matter how many bricks you throw at me," he said.
He also said that for LGBT activists, "banning 'gay' propaganda to children in Russia (which I wholeheartedly support) is no different than threatening life imprisonment for consensual adult homosexuality in Uganda (which I wholeheartedly oppose)." He then quoted the Bible and said, "I urge you all to repent."
Lively, who wouldn't share his age, didn't say whether he'd come to San Francisco to pick up his pink brick from Pride.
For more information, visit www.sfpride.org.