Readers love their Pride, the Castro, and the Dubs: Besties

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday October 25, 2023
Share this Post:
Dykes on Bikes led off the San Francisco Pride parade June 25. Photo: Gooch
Dykes on Bikes led off the San Francisco Pride parade June 25. Photo: Gooch

It's no surprise that the San Francisco Pride parade and celebration has been chosen by Bay Area Reporter readers as the Bay's best LGBTQ event. The parade purports to be the world's largest, and it is tied with several cities for being among the oldest — having started in 1970, one year after the Stonewall uprising, which is considered by many to be the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights movement in the United States. This year on June 25, thousands of people marched in 200 contingents up Market Street, as the B.A.R. reported at the time. The June 24-25 celebration in Civic Center also drew crowds of revelers to three stages of entertainment and dozens of booths manned by community organizations.

"We are thrilled and deeply honored to announce that SF Pride has been selected as the 'Best Community Event' in the Bay Area Reporter's reader poll," stated Nguyen Pham, president of the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Celebration Committee board of directors. "This recognition is not just an award but a testament to the incredible journey and the profound impact our event has had on the LGBTQ+ community and beyond."

Pham continued that Pride "has always been more than just a celebration," as it showcases San Francisco's central place as a "beacon of hope" for LGBTQ people "not only for the Bay Area but for the entire world."

"In a time when inclusion and diversity are more important than ever, SF Pride continues to represent the vibrant tapestry of our community, where every color, gender, and orientation is embraced and celebrated," Pham stated. "As we accept this honor, let it serve as a reminder that we are all an integral part of the beautiful tapestry that is San Francisco and the LGBTQ+ community."

The 2024 Pride weekend will be held June 29-30.

For more information, visit


Folsom Street Fair

Tina Aguirre is the director of the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District. Photo: Fabian Echevarria  

Best LGBTQ Cultural District
Castro LGBTQ Cultural District
The Castro was established as an official LGBTQ cultural district by the city in 2019, joining the Transgender District and the Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District as the three catering to the queer community. The Castro cultural district's leadership took a leading role in the fight to preserve the fixed, orchestra-style seats at the Castro Theatre after Another Planet Entertainment took over operating the space last year.

While that effort did not succeed, the forces opposed to APE's plans did win some concessions, such as a pledge to continue queer programming at the theater.

"I am happy to learn that the community has voted for us as the best LGBTQ cultural district, especially considering that we are in good company with the Transgender Cultural District and the Leather LGBTQ Cultural District," Tina Aguirre, a genderqueer Latinx person who is the district's director, stated to the B.A.R.

"I would like to believe that they voted for us because of the work we are doing to center LGBTQ people, places, and culture," Aguirre added.

Aguirre explained that work includes a mural commissioned by Serge Gay Jr. "featuring Black trans and lesbian women," as well as "our work to preserve the Castro Theatre as a hub for queer and trans culture."

The district will be having a meet and greet at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, October 28, at the GLBT Historical Society Museum at 4127 18th Street.

"Join us and we can share more about our plans," Aguirre continued. "We look forward to building on these successes in the next year to further center queer and trans people, places and culture."

For more information, visit

The Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District

Longtime AIDS survivor Cleve Jones received the National AIDS Memorial Grove's Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2022 Light in the Grove benefit. Photo: Onyx and Ash Photography  

Best LGBTQ Fundraiser
Light in the Grove
Light in the Grove is the National AIDS Memorial Grove's annual fundraiser that takes place in Golden Gate Park, home of the national AIDS memorial, each November 30, the night before World AIDS Day. The benefit started in 2009. As the B.A.R. previously reported, last year's event was the 13th and tickets started at $300. Cleve Jones, co-founder of the AIDS Memorial quilt, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The event features awardees and panels of the AIDS quilt, of which the AIDS grove became the steward in 2019.

"We are indeed humbled to again receive the best LGBTQ fundraiser as part of your annual Besties awards," John Cunningham, CEO of the AIDS grove, stated in an email.

For more information, visit

Santa Skivvies

Best LGBTQ Nonprofit
Project Open Hand
Project Open Hand provides meals to people living with HIV/AIDS, seniors, and people with disabilities in San Francisco and Alameda counties. Founded in 1985, each day Project Open Hand's volunteers — it counts 125 per day — make 2,500 meals and provides 200 bags of groceries to its clients "as they battle serious illnesses, isolation, or the health challenges of aging," according to its website.

Paul Hepfer, Project Open Hand's CEO, stated to the B.A.R. after the initial publication of this report that winning is "a tremendous honor."

"Since we opened our doors in 1985 during the AIDS crisis, Project Open Hand has been deeply rooted in the LGBTQ+ community. Today, a quarter of our clients are people living with HIV/AIDS, and our mission has grown to serve other neighbors living with critical illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer," Hepfer stated. "This year, we're seeing an increased need in the community for our services in response to the rising cost of food and the decrease of federal pandemic-era benefits, with a 35% increase in new clients living with HIV/AIDS in the East Bay alone."

Hepfer added. "We hope that this recognition will help others to learn more about our organization and find ways to get involved."

For more information, visit

Transgender Law Center

U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, center, spoke about LGBTQ mental health issues June 28 at the LGBT center, where he was joined by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, left, and the center's executive director, Rebecca Rolfe. Photo: John Ferrannini  

Best LGBTQ Center
San Francisco LGBT Community Center
Opened in 2002, the community center at 1800 Market Street provides economic and youth services and spaces for myriad gatherings. In June, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-California) visited and discussed his plans for a bipartisan mental health caucus, as the B.A.R. reported at the time. Padilla and several other senators launched the caucus just last week.

Rebecca Rolfe, a lesbian, is the center's longtime executive director. She was grateful for the votes, calling it "an incredible honor" to be named the best LGBTQ community center in the Bay Area by the B.A.R.'s readers.

"For over two decades, we've served as a beacon of hope for the LGBTQ+ community. To this day, our mission has rang true — to connect our beautifully diverse community to opportunities, resources, and each other," Rolfe stated. "We believe that everyone deserves to feel safe, supported, and celebrated for who they are, and we're committed to making that a reality."

Rolfe thanked the community for its "unwavering dedication."

"Whether we are helping LGBTQ+ people find affirming jobs, celebrate their artistry, or access critical resources in the Bay Area, we're always working to build a brighter, more equitable future," she added. "Your support has been instrumental in helping us make a difference in the lives of thousands of LGBTQ+ people."

For more information, visit

Oakland LGBTQ Community Center

The SF Fury Unleashed A team traveled to Dallas in 2022 for the Gay Softball World Series. The team took second place in the A Division. Photo: Steven Bracco  

Best LGBTQ Sports League
San Francisco Gay Softball League
A repeat winner in this category, the San Francisco Gay Softball League celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. As the B.A.R. previously reported, over the 50 years, the organization estimates that approximately 30,000 members have participated.

The league is open to everyone in the LGBTQ+ community and allies, and has two divisions, the Open Division and the Women's+ Division. A victory over a police softball team 49 years ago was big news, and the annual game between the gay and police softball teams helped ease tensions at a time when homosexuality was still illegal.

The tradition of the teams playing each other continued through 1978, when the assassination of gay supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone by former supervisor and police officer Dan White once again soured relationships between the communities. The role the softball league has in breaking down social barriers, however, continues to this day.

The league's inclusive and open attitude has not come without controversy. In particular, three San Francisco players — LaRon Charles, Jon Russ, and Steven Apilado — helped to spearhead changes to the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association's rules to include bisexual and trans players. The case was settled in 2011.

The league did not return a request for comment by the initial publication of this report but October 27, board member John Christophel stated on behalf of the league, "While there's many LGBTQ+ sports leagues/groups in San Francisco, we feel people love SFGSL for its inclusiveness. SFGSL is a sports league that offers something for everyone regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation or skill level. It's easy for someone to join and see there's other people like themselves and not feel alone or isolated."

For more information, visit

San Francisco Fog Rugby

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr basked in adulation from fans during the team's 2022 NBA championship parade in San Francisco. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland  

Best Pro Sports Team
Golden State Warriors
The Dubs may not have won the championship this year, but they did win an exciting playoff series against the upstart Sacramento Kings (they ultimately lost the next series to the Los Angeles Lakers). However, the 2022 Warriors' NBA championship victory parade brought revelers to see stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green party up Market Street. (While live on Instagram from his boat heading into the city that day, Thompson's hat flew off his head into the wind.)

The 2023-24 season started Tuesday, and the Warriors hope to bring the championship trophy back to San Francisco.

The Warriors did not return a request for comment.

For more information, go to

San Francisco Giants

Updated, 10/28/23: This article was updated with comments from the SF Gay Softball League.

Updated, 10/31/23: This article was updated with comments from Project Open Hand.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.