Plenty of Pride on display at SF Trans March

  • by JL Odom
  • Monday July 1, 2024
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San Francisco Trans March participants stood beside a giant trans flag that was carried during the June 28 event. Photo: JL Odom
San Francisco Trans March participants stood beside a giant trans flag that was carried during the June 28 event. Photo: JL Odom

It was a sight to see: a multitude of light blue, white, and light pink horizontal stripes on clothing, signage, and flags of all sizes, including one that was more than 100 feet long.

Worn, carried, or waved, the three colors, uniformly representing transgender Pride, were prevalent throughout the crowd at the annual San Francisco Trans March held Friday, June 28.

"We are here, all of us, to represent the trans community," said Arri Rodriguez, a participant who donned a trans Pride flag as a cape.

"And I'm here to say thank you to all of the people who have helped us and for the support that they've given to the community," she added.

Thousands of attendees, including Rodriguez, gathered in Mission Dolores Park for what marked the 20th anniversary of the SF Trans March. A resource fair and live performances took place in the park prior to the march itself, which got underway just after 6 p.m.

"We had a bunch of amazing speakers and amazing performers and all spoke exactly how they felt. Now we're in the march and we have a huge flag. People want to be seen this year. So I think for the 20th anniversary, we did a big one, and I'm really happy with it," said Trans March production organizer Niko Storment as he walked alongside the contingent.

This year's Trans March — and Pride weekend as a whole — occurred during a critical time in history, with anti-trans legislation, discrimination and violence, an upcoming U.S. presidential election, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Palestine conflicts, and other key issues in the news and on people's minds.

Storment, a queer trans man, spoke with the Bay Area Reporter about the local LGBTQ community and its influence in, and beyond, San Francisco.

"This year, we're seeing a lot going on, both in the United States and in the rest of the world," he said. "And the queer community here has always been a leader of the rest of the world, so we had a lot of pressure on us this year to represent that. But really, it's the community here that already has that spirit within them, and all we really had to do as organizers was just amplify what's already here."

Rodriguez, who identifies as gay, had volunteered to help carry the massive Trans Pride flag featured in this year's march and was holding onto it as she spoke with the B.A.R. She commented that assistance and resources for the local trans and gender-nonconforming community should continue to be offered — and prioritized.

"Our sisters and brothers need help with a lot of things, like housing, jobs," she said. "We have to find a good way through the hard [circumstances]."

In addition to the trans, nonbinary, lesbian, gay, and other Pride flags prevalent in the march, participants' showcasing of Pride — and protest — included chants such as "When trans rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!" and signs reading "Protect trans kids" and "LGBTQ people stand against genocide. Free Palestine." Several groups walked in the march, including one with the banner, "Queer and trans health care workers stand with Palestine resistance."

March organizers rode in a trolley that led the procession as it made its way up Dolores Street before turning right on Market, en route to the end destination: Turk and Taylor streets in the Tenderloin's Transgender District, the site of the 1966 Compton's Cafeteria riot.

That riot in August 1966 (the exact date is lost to history) was one of the first queer uprisings against police harassment and violence in American history, predating by three years the Stonewall riots in New York City that kick-started the modern day LGBTQ liberation movement. The San Francisco riot took place at what was at the time Gene Compton's Cafeteria, an all-night diner at the Turk and Taylor intersection frequented by LGBTQs. An officer reportedly grabbed at one trans woman in an attempt to arrest her. She retaliated, throwing a cup of coffee at his face. Then the fighting broke out.

Along the way to the historic intersection — the San Francisco Board of Supervisors designated it and the facade of the old cafeteria building a local landmark in 2022 — drivers on side streets honked their vehicles' horns in support, and bystanders observed and cheered.

"We live along the route and just wanted to come out and cheer everybody on. We try to do it every year," said Merg Gerwe, who stood on the sidewalk with friends, taking in the views as the marchers passed by.

Gerwe, a lesbian, touched upon the importance of being there to support trans and gender-nonconforming individuals. "It's an election year," she said. "We've got to stand up for everybody's rights that could be in danger."

Another spectator, Diane Dittbrenner, described the march as "very empowering and endearing."

"I love to see the gay community, the transgender community, banding together and empowering each other and marching and being proud of themselves," said Dittbrenner, a lesbian.

She noted that a gathering like the Trans March enables LGBTQ people to collectively demonstrate their Pride, while feeling safe doing so.

"I feel like the crowds every year are getting bigger and bigger and more people are becoming braver. We need to have a voice; we need to be out there and help and protect each other," she said.

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