SF Pride Sunday offers options

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday June 20, 2023
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People watched last year's San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
People watched last year's San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

Once again, two marches will take place in San Francisco on Pride Sunday.

The San Francisco LGBTQ Pride parade will be kicking off at 10:30 a.m. June 25 from Market and Beale streets, celebrating the 54th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that began the modern movement for queer civil rights in the United States.

Half an hour later, the fourth annual People's March will process down Polk Street at Washington Street, providing a more strident alternative for those commemorating the city's biggest weekend of the year.

Suzanne Ford, the executive director of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee that puts on the parade and celebration, told the Bay Area Reporter () in April that for the first time, donations will be accepted on the parade route to help cover a budget shortfall. As the B.A.R. noted, SF Pride has an $800,000 budget gap.

Ford also announced in spring that some uniformed police will be allowed to march at the event this year, under the same conditions as last year.

A ban on uniformed officers from marching in the parade was going into effect for the first time last year, which prompted outrage from many quarters, including Mayor London Breed and gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who said they themselves wouldn't participate if the restriction on police uniforms was enforced.

Breed and Dorsey reversed course when a compromise was reached whereby the police chief and command staff were allowed to march in full uniform while others would be allowed to march out of uniform. (As it turned out, Breed had COVID in late June and was forced to miss the parade and related activities.)

The compromise terms — which will be in effect again this year — allowed the city's police, sheriff, and fire departments to march together, with command staff allowed in uniform but without visible weapons. Some adjacent officers were allowed weapons for security, but the largest group had to be out of uniform, in shirts with department logos.

Ford talked about the meaning of this year's theme.

"Over the past 53 years, many leaders of the LGBTQ+ community have been recognized by San Francisco Pride," Ford stated in a news release. "This year, our theme is 'Looking Back and Moving Forward.' And we want to honor all the work that went before us. And we look forward to the new leaders that are emerging in the queer community."

Grand marshals

Some of those leaders are being honored in this year's SF Pride parade. Dr. Nasser Mohamed was selected as community grand marshal by a public vote. Mohamed, who hails from Qatar but is now an American citizen, is believed to be the first native Qatari to publicly come out as gay, which he did last year when he spoke out about the abuses against LGBTQ Qataris in his former homeland during the World Cup, which was held there. (See related story.)

Mohamed said he was "profoundly indebted to San Francisco Pride and the city of San Francisco for amplifying my voice."

"We can coexist harmoniously, transcending diverse cultures, traditions, religious beliefs, ethnicities, and sexual or gender identities," he stated to the B.A.R. "With unwavering conviction, I believe that this year, the global LGBT community will find solace in the vibrant celebration of San Francisco Pride, igniting a revitalized flame of hope that will propel us all to persistently wage our battles for equality across the globe. Our collective fight is indivisible, interwoven, and interdependent, for when one of us triumphs, we all rise higher."

Another community grand marshal, selected by the membership of the San Francisco Pride organization, is Honey Mahogany, the first transgender and the first Black chair of the city's Democratic Party. Mahogany was also a co-founder of the world's first trans district, in the Tenderloin, and was a contestant on "RuPaul's Drag Race." After falling short in last year's election for District 6 supervisor, Mahogany is the district director for Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco).

"It's an incredible honor to be selected by the hardworking members of the Pride board as a grand marshal," Mahogany told the B.A.R. "As someone who was born and raised in San Francisco and worked so long in the LGBTQ community, I can think of no greater honor. Thank you."

The board of directors also selected Laura Lala-Chávez, the executive director of the Castro-area LGBTQ youth center LYRIC, as a community grand marshal.

"I'm surprised and shocked to be selected as Community Grand Marshall of 2023 SF Pride," Lala-Chávez told the B.A.R. "I'm deeply honored my community has selected me to represent them. As a first generation, Latine, nonbinary person I never dreamt that someone like me could achieve this honor. I couldn't be here without the support of my family, friends and everyone at LYRIC, from the board to the staff and youth. This is truly a recognition of the work we've done together in the last year to support all LGBTQQ+ youth."

Rounding out the community grand marshals are Breonna McCree, who currently works at Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at UCSF and who was selected by Pride's board; and Drag Story Hour, which was selected by public vote as the organization grand marshal.

"Pride allows my tribe to be their most authentic selves, and reminds me that love is universal and unconditional," McCree stated. "As a Black woman of trans experience, Pride encourages me to stand against levels of violence, discrimination, and oppression for my gender-expansive community. My Pride means love, solidarity, community, and resistance."

Longtime gay AIDS activist Paul Aguilar is the lifetime achievement grand marshal.

"Receiving lifetime achievement as a community grand marshal for San Francisco Pride is something that I never expected. To be considered among the ranks of such icons as James Hormel, Cleve Jones, and Dr. Marcy Adelman is ... well, let's face it, those are pretty big shoes to fill. I just hope to do them justice," he said, referring to previous honorees.


Among those marching in the parade will be Micheál Smith, the consulate general of the Republic of Ireland, who will be joined by other diplomats from across the Atlantic.

"As Ireland, we are doing a Team Ireland gathering for all members of the consulate and economic agencies here and other stakeholders of the Irish community," he said. "I'm really excited."

In 2015, Ireland became the first country to vote to legalize same-sex marriage; which surprised some because of its reputation as a Catholic bastion. Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, is gay and married to his husband.

"As a country we have come through a long, difficult journey of social change and transformation," Smith said. "We have a very proud Irish LGBTQ+ diaspora here."


The parade ends at Market and Eighth streets. The celebration at Civic Center Plaza is on two days: from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Donation amount?

The app Friendly Like Me is helping people with disabilities navigate Pride this year by providing venue ratings and lists of accessible venues.

"Once a place is reviewed, its scores become available to anyone on the platform, allowing users to see at-a-glance how 'friendly' a business is to specific communities, such as wheelchair users, or people of size," a news release stated. "The app also delivers an ultra personalized search experience, and identifies how close the business comes to meeting the user's individual preferences via a proprietary 'Like Me' score. Businesses can claim their listings, create a profile of their accessibility accommodations, and provide specific instructions and extra information to potential patrons. Brands and advertisers partner with Friendly Like Me to get access to accessibility data in real-time, so they can target customers with specific needs."

It is available on Apple and Android devices.

Dee Snider will not be performing after all, as the B.A.R. reported earlier after the Twisted Sister singer got in hot water for liking a transphobic tweet. However, the celebration will feature Princess Nokia as the headliner on Saturday and Hayley Kiyoko as the headliner Sunday.

Princess Nokia, who is bisexual and lost her mother to AIDS, began her musical career in New York City's gay nightlife. Kiyoko, a lesbian singer and actress from Los Angeles, had her first novel, "Girls Like Girls," published earlier this year.

"Pride was founded as a riot and has since evolved into a celebration, which is a powerful mode of collective resistance," stated Nguyen Pham, president of the SF Pride board. "We are thrilled to be celebrating these most honorable luminaries, all of whom reflect the evolution not only of the makeup of our community, but also of our broader movement and where we're going.

"The inclusivity of this group is an uplifting representation of our queer [people of color] community especially," added Pham, the first gay Vietnamese man to hold the leadership position. Given the tidal wave of bigotry in red states, namely the record number of anti-queer and anti-trans legislative actions, this cohort of our honorees is at the leading edge of our fight — against the hate."

A large crowd participated in the 2021 People's March. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

People's March
The People's March, which started in 2020 when the SF Pride parade was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in the thick of uproar following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, will have its fourth iteration this weekend.

"Last year someone thanked me for helping to organize the event and said, 'Participating in this march and rally is the first time I've felt proud to be gay,'" organizer Juanita MORE! told the B.A.R. "It's an important event that unites our community to protest all the hate and bigotry happening across our country."

Alex U. Inn, an activist and drag king, told the B.A.R. that the march will go along Polk Street but will make a few detours on the way to Fern Alley, where there will be — in a People's March first — a music festival. Admission is free.

"It's going to be a preparation for the fifth anniversary to see if people like it," Inn said.

One of the performers at the festival will be Ariel Bowser, who Inn described as an "up and coming artist with an incredibly beautiful voice."

Bowser will be singing an original song, "Keep On," and "Lift Every Voice and Sing," also known as the Black national anthem.

"I've been performing with the People's March for the last three years, and I cannot be more honored," Bowser told the B.A.R. "To be accepted as an ally and artist is beyond appreciated. Oftentimes, marginalized individuals are not able to hold space without stipulations.

"The People's March allows those communities to hold space; it highlights that. It is one of the most important protests of this era and is a part of a historic continued movement," Bowser added. "We have to be forever grateful and be reminded of that. We are still in a time of shackles in so many other places all over the world. Let our voice speak for those communities as well."

Inn said the People's March is a beacon of hope in an unjust society, and a sign of what could be.

"Pride is a protest," Inn said. "We never want to forget that, and with all the laws and anti-laws on the books for women, trans people, drag performers, and Brown people, we just need to remember we are for the people. It's not just that we're representing the spectrum of queer people ... we can't separate ourselves because we're queer. We can't just isolate ourselves. We need to fight all the battles so we keep all of our rights intact. That's why we're the People's March."

For more information on SF Pride, go to sfpride.org.

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