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Resistance is in the air at Sonoma Pride

by Charlie Wagner

Supporters of Food for Thought (AIDS Food Bank of Sonoma<br>County) marched in the June 4 Sonoma County Pride parade. Photo: Charlie Wagner
Supporters of Food for Thought (AIDS Food Bank of Sonoma
County) marched in the June 4 Sonoma County Pride parade. Photo: Charlie Wagner  

An exuberant crowd of 1,000-plus Sonoma Pride celebrants flocked to Guerneville for the 30th annual event last weekend.

This year, Sonoma County Pride organizers focused on current events.

"Our rights are in jeopardy because of a changed and polarized political climate that has people from all walks of life concerned about basic civil rights," said Pride President JD Donavan.

The Pride board selected three people as grand marshals: Greg Sarris, a gay man who's an author, educator, and chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria; Aydian Dowling, a trans man and activist; and Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, a straight ally.

Pride included a new event this year: a Solidarity Rally that was held Saturday afternoon to support the national Equality March for Unity and Pride that takes place June 11 in Washington, D.C.

Held at the Guerneville Lodge, the rally's theme was "Rise up! Resist!" and featured a diverse set of speakers from throughout the county.

The rally was conceived and organized by massage therapist Cheryl Kabanuck, 62, and KRCB staffer Gary Carnivale, 56, who were alarmed by President Donald Trump's election and encouraged by the Women's March in Santa Rosa earlier this year.

"We joined forces with the Pride committee," Carnivale said, "to add a rally to show that LGBTQ people stand in solidarity with women's issues, immigrant rights, voting rights, and other causes impacted by Trump's election."

The cost was completely underwritten by the Letter People, a 2-year-old Sonoma County activist group that started as a business-networking group but now is working to increase local LGBTQ visibility.

Greg Miraglia, one of the hosts and producers of Outbeat Radio, a longtime weekly LGBT show on KRCB, was the emcee for the rally.

"This is not a time to wait and see what happens," he told the crowd. "The president and his administration are already working to undo the gains we've realized over the last eight years."

Over the next four hours, Miraglia introduced 15 speakers representing a diverse set of LGBTQ and allied political and nonprofit organizations, plus several elected officials.

Hopkins was the first speaker. Her district includes Guerneville and a large portion of West Sonoma County. She operates organic Foggy River Farms in Healdsburg with her husband, Emmett, whose grandparents acquired the land in the 1950s.

Hopkins showcased her "Resist" shirt as she admitted it was "something of a curse to be elected on the same night as Donald Trump." She emphasized that, "an attack on the LGBTQI community is an attack on my family, and the same is true of attacks on the immigrant community or Muslim Americans."

"LGBT rights are human rights," she added, "and we can't stand still while the clock is rolled back 50 years."

She also talked passionately about her particular concern for the dangers of suicide among trans youth.

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, a lesbian, discussed increasing incidents of hate speech and said, "When there is hateful speech directed at us, we need to explain who we are and not walk away."

Bismark Ernesto, 19, was the youngest speaker and is an undocumented trans AfroLatinx youth who's the lead organizer for the North Bay Immigrant Youth Union in Santa Rosa.

"We heard from our teachers that we should just keep our head down," Ernesto explained, "but we are not here just to survive but to thrive."

Ernesto also pointed out that President Barack Obama deported more undocumented immigrants than previous presidents and lamented that the situation has been dire for some time.

In a more optimistic tone, Mandi Camille Hauwert discussed using her distinction as San Quentin's first transgender officer to improve the treatment of trans-identified people by law enforcement. But Hauwert insisted, "The Trump administration is a threat to our entire community."

 

Parade

The Unity March and Pride parade capped off the weekend Sunday, June 4. Handmade floats and folks with elaborate costumes marched along Main Street.

The parade was led by the grand marshals and featured emcee Angelique Rivera, the president of the Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Rivera kept the commentary going fast and funny for about 90 minutes in front of a crowd she estimated as slightly over 1,000.

Though much smaller than the San Francisco Pride parade, contingents included many local organizations and businesses, plus local chapters of groups like PFLAG and the Indivisibles, a group that is opposed to Trump.

The highlight of the afternoon celebration was a talk by Dowling, who was featured on the cover of Men's Health magazine.

Dowling, 29, spoke about his life and journey to "start matching his male outsidedness with his insidedness." He talked about his self-harming behavior during early adolescence and the painful irony about having to "admit to gender identity disorder, listed in medical books as an illness, to get into therapy."

He also talked about the competition to appear as a model in Men's Health and the significance of a trans man being selected for the first time after his candidacy received the most online votes.

The Pride celebration continued with singers, drag king and drag queen performances, and music DJ'd by Lady Char.

Since the site included access to the Russian River and the temperature had reached a balmy 85 degrees, people were jumping in the river throughout the afternoon.

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