Womxn's Stage angered by shabby SF Pride setup

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Tuesday July 2, 2024
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The women go-go dancers entertain the crowds at the Womxn's Stage at San Francisco during Pride Sunday, June 30, 2024. Photo: Courtesy Sophia Andary
The women go-go dancers entertain the crowds at the Womxn's Stage at San Francisco during Pride Sunday, June 30, 2024. Photo: Courtesy Sophia Andary

San Francisco Pride's Womxn's Stage organizers and entertainers are angry that their stage lacked what they needed to celebrate Pride safely on Sunday. The stage was dramatically different from years past, entertainers and producers said.

Last year, they had a concert-quality large stage and staging area, as featured on SF Pride's Community Stages website. This year, other community stages had the same concert-style set-up as last year, but the Womxn's Stage did not, performers and producers said.

Describing performing last year on the Womxn's Stage, Jazmine Black being a go-go dancer who used her stage name, said it was on a "concert-style stage."

Performing on the stage this year was in "a vendor pop-up tent," Black said.

Black texted with friends performing at other stages at SF Pride asking about their experiences and showing them photos and videos of the Womxn's Stage.

"The feedback that they were giving was utter shock, how different the women's stage setup was compared to theirs," she said.

"I was told our stage would be a little bit smaller and our trailer would be a little bit smaller than the previous year," said Jolene Linsangan, manager of the Womxn's Stage, about what SF Pride told her. "We had nothing."

Linsangan is the owner of Jolene's, a queer bar and restaurant in the Mission district. She also produces U-Haul, a women's dance party.

She and her team produced the stage for the last three years. During the first two years, Linsangan raised $10,000 and $15,000, respectively, to manage the Womxn's Stage. This year, Linsangan was only able to raise an estimated 50% of her $10,000 goal, which she dropped from $15,000. She dug into her own pocketbook to pull the stage off this year. The money she raised is to pay the entertainers she hires for the stage.

SF Pride provides the stage, tent over the stage, trailer, security, equipment and sound techs, signage, and anything beyond entertainment, Linsangan's team and volunteers told the Bay Area Reporter.

Aware of budget cuts, Linsangan was understanding but was shocked by the dramatic difference from previous years.

Marqui Martinez, Jolene's assistant at the bar and dance manager for the Womxn's Stage, wrote in an email statement to the B.A.R. July 1, "The women's stage does not get funding from the SF Pride Committee. We are the only stage that needs to raise our own money to put on our amazing show."

"It's clear it was not divvied up evenly," Linsangan said of the equipment and other items. "My big question from this year was, how did I go from what I had in the last two years to what I had this year?"

Organizers and entertainers arrived at McAllister and Leavenworth streets, where the stage was located, around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday to find a flimsily-constructed small structure with unsecured wires on the stage and loose speakers. Furthermore, there was little cover provided, exposing equipment and performers to the sun and the public. There was no private dressing area for the performers and organizers. Security was minimal, from no barricades around the stage and staging area to a lone older woman who was the security guard. There was no signage stating that the stage was the Womxn's Stage.

The lack of privacy and a secured space opened Womxn's Stage entertainers and staff to harassment by both cisgender men and women backstage while changing and onstage while performing, producers and entertainers said.

Linsangan said she texted Suzanne Ford, a trans woman who is SF Pride's executive director, about issues she was having on Sunday and requested more security. She told the B.A.R. she never received a response. No additional security ever showed up to the stage as it got later, and crowds became more aggressive.

Ford did not respond to the B.A.R. by press time.

Without a dressing room, performers' only choice was to change into their costumes inside a portable toilet used by the public that was stationed behind the stage or change in the open air behind the stage where people could see and touch them.

"It was just so undignified to have them have to change outside in front of everybody in the public," said Sophia Andary, a queer woman and community organizer. Linsangan contacted her for help. "They weren't going to use those Porta-Potties, which were open to the public. They were filthy. They're not going to go in there and change into their costumes," Andary said.


Minimal security allowed the public to walk into the stage area and even get onto the stage. There were sanitary concerns due to the portable toilets and water station that were shared openly rather than reserved for the people working at the stage, the Womxn's Stage's entertainers and producers told the B.A.R.

"Our security was one older woman that I didn't feel safe asking her to remove aggressive men that were at the stage," Linsangan said.

Linsangan and performers told the B.A.R. they were leered at and photographed and videoed by men and women as they changed.

"There was a cis man that was taking pictures, like very inappropriate pictures, getting really close, and we were getting closer to him and he ran away," Andary said, adding a naked man tried to get onto the stage until the women blocked him.

Black was heavily groped by a drunk woman multiple times until RedBone, the emcee for the Womxn's Stage, and others successfully got the woman's friends to take her away from the stage. (RedBone only wanted to use her stage name.)

"We had to do our own security. We shouldn't have to have dealt with that," said Andary.

"Community members by the stage helped out by being impromptu security," Linsangan added.

Dancers changed their routines to squeeze onto the small stage. There were moments when they got ensnared in the loose wires, sometimes accidentally unplugging the equipment. Staff attempted to move the wires to protect the performers. One of the speakers nearly fell over but was caught by someone before anyone got hurt, RedBone said.

Other performance spaces had raised stages, security, barriers, coverings, private backstage areas with trailers, and were clearly marked what stages they were, Womxn's Stage staff and volunteers said.

The situation was so bad at the Womxn's Stage that Linsangan almost called off the event, she told the B.A.R.

Holding space for queer women

Linsangan and the performers didn't cancel the Womxn's Stage. They felt they had to hold space for queer women and Black, Indigenous, and women of color at SF Pride given that the official Dyke March didn't occur on Pink Saturday, reported KGO-TV.

KGO-TV was the official SF Pride sponsor and aired the 54th annual Pride parade live June 30.

The group also felt the responsibility to provide space for queer and BIPOC women at SF Pride due to the LGBTQ community and women being under attack by right-wing conservatives. The American Civil Liberties Union is tracking 527 anti-LGBTQ bills this year and tracked 510 bills in 2023. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned abortion rights with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision in 2022. The court's win tipped off a wave of attacks on reproductive rights from the abortion pill to contraception to IVF.

Ahead of Pride Month, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department issued warnings of potential threats of attacks at Pride events around the world.

"Since it was announced that the Dyke March was canceled, and just everything going on with that, we shouldn't cancel anything," Linsangan said the team decided. "We should put our best into it. We really need to hold space this year, even though it wasn't the greatest situation."

Not valued

Repeatedly the women told the B.A.R. they felt they were uncared for and not valued by SF Pride.

"Last year, it felt very intentional. It felt thought of. It felt safe. We felt cared for," Black said. "This year, we felt extremely forgotten about and disposed of."

RedBone echoed Black. She told the B.A.R. that she felt "uncared for, unprotected, [and] not prioritized" by SF Pride after Sunday.

"No one cares about women anymore," she said. "Women are not prioritized. We are not cared about. We're disposable."

"It was like we were an afterthought," Andary agreed. "That's exactly what we were to SF Pride. Queer women are an afterthought to SF Pride because that's how they treated us yesterday."

Call for apology

Andary is calling upon SF Pride to apologize to the Womxn's Stage organizers and entertainers.

"There definitely needs to be an apology," she said, calling for SF Pride to also investigate what happened to the Womxn's Stage setup.

"They need to be held accountable and to really explain themselves," she added. "They need to ensure that that doesn't happen again."

At the same time, Andary called on allies — such as the managers of the other community stages at SF Pride and other SF Pride members — to come out in support of the Womxn's Stage.

"Stand with us and really tell Pride that, hey, this is not acceptable," Andary said.

Healing the situation

"We need the space," Linsangan said. "I need more support from Pride to let me know how to get it back to what we had the last two years."

Andary agreed, "We need to have visibility. We need to have this space."

Linsangan would like to attend SF Pride's board meeting Wednesday, July 3, at 7 p.m., but she doesn't have an invitation to the meeting.

SF Pride's monthly board meetings are open to the public but appear to have gone virtual after COVID-19.

Linsangan said she isn't calling out SF Pride to cause conflict but to get answers to what happened this year and to find a solution for next year.

"What can we do together?" to get there, Linsangan asked.

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