SF Pride parade flexes community's muscle

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Sunday June 25, 2023
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Members of Dykes on Bikes led off the San Francisco Pride parade June 25. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
Members of Dykes on Bikes led off the San Francisco Pride parade June 25. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

Thousands of people marched in 200 contingents up Market Street Sunday for the San Francisco LGBTQ Pride parade — a defiant answer from the City-by-the-Bay to a resurgence in homophobic and transphobic attitudes elsewhere.

Marchers included the notable — Congressmember Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the former House speaker, and the city's mayor, London Breed — and the many more community members and allies like LGBTQ bankers, bureaucrats, first responders, service workers, and indeed people of all occupations, who make the Bay Area work day-by-day.

The Vera Sphere contingent sported brilliant colors in the SF Pride parade. Photo: Gooch  

The parade is now in its 53rd year, although it did not take place in 2020 and 2021 due to the ongoing COVID pandemic. It — along with Pride parades nationwide this month — commemorates the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in Manhattan, New York, which in June 1969 stood at the beginning of the movement for LGBTQ civil rights in the United States. New York City held its parade the same day as San Francisco.

Congressmember Nancy Pelosi, center, rode in the Pride parade with her colleague, Congressmember Adam Schiff, who's running for U.S. Senate. Photo: John Ferrannini  

One of the parade's community grand marshals, Honey Mahogany, a trans nonbinary person who is chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, told the Bay Area Reporter that though she's been in many Pride parades over the years and has hosted the main stage at Civic Center Plaza with Sister Roma for the past five years, "being a grand marshal this year in particular feels really special."

"After a year full of over 500 hateful anti-LGBTQ bills being introduced across the country, a year filled with violent rhetoric and attacks, marching in Pride felt incredibly cathartic, necessary, and in some ways revolutionary to be able to celebrate queer and trans joy amidst it all," Mahogany stated. "I'm so grateful to be able to be here and be a part of this moment."

The People's March was also held June 25. Photo: Gooch  

The parade allowed the city's queer community to flex its political muscle in more ways, too. The American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau estimates 15.4% of San Francisco's population is LGBTQ — the highest proportion in the country.

District 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio, who represents the Sunset and Outer Sunset neighborhoods on the city's Board of Supervisors, is one of three gay men on the city's legislative body. Last year, there was only one: District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Castro.

"This parade was especially meaningful because not only was it my first as a city supervisor, I was able to share the experience with my husband. Not that long ago it seemed impossible that historically conservative western districts in San Francisco would ever elect an openly gay supervisor," Engardio stated. "And not that long ago it was impossible for Lionel [Hsu] and I to be legally married husbands. So this march was a celebration of how far we have come. It was also a realization of how much work we still have to do to help trans people who are under threat and ensure the liberties LGBTQ people have gained remain for the next generation. Freedom is fragile and we must always be working to protect it."

District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, whose South of Market district runs along the parade route, told the B.A.R., "My thoughts on Pride, kudos to Suzanne Ford and the team at SF Pride for an amazing parade and celebration.

Suzanne Ford, a trans woman, is the executive director of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee that puts on the parade and celebration.

"I've been marching in SF Pride parades since 1990, and it felt like there was a lot of great energy out there this year," Dorsey added. "I was especially proud to take part in Rafael Mandelman's contingent this year. Rafi is one of my dearest friends, and if there's an opening in the state Legislature next year, I'm doing everything I can to encourage him to run for that. We'll see how it goes, but it was certainly clear to me that there's a lot of enthusiasm for Rafael in our community."

As the B.A.R. has previously reported, depending on a number of factors, there may be an open San Francisco seat in the state Legislature. The political musical chairs would first be set off by Pelosi opting not to run for reelection next year. Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who already has set up an exploratory committee to seek her House seat, would then officially jump into the race for Pelosi's open 11th Congressional District seat.

As his current term in the Legislature is up next year, it would mean Wiener's Senate District 11 seat would now be open in 2024. A likely candidate to succeed Wiener would be Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), who was just elected to his 17th Assembly District seat last year.

Were Haney to run for Senate, it would mean his Assembly seat would be up for grabs in 2024, as the elected position is on the ballot every two years. Jumping into the race would almost assuredly be Mandelman, now serving his final term on the Board of Supervisors.

Mandelman has made no secret of his desire to run for a legislative seat. He recently opened up a 2028 state Senate campaign account, which is when Wiener would be termed out of office if he ends up running for reelection next year.

Another possible candidate for the Assembly seat is Mahogany, who is district director for Haney.

Mandelman did not return requests for comment from the B.A.R. Sunday.

Montana state Representative Zooey Zephyr addressed the People's March June 25. Photo: Gooch  

Pelosi marched in the parade alongside Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Burbank).

"Today, I proudly joined San Franciscans in celebrating Pride Month and the advances made toward full equality for all," Pelosi stated to the B.A.R. "In San Francisco, our LGBTQ+ community has made countless contributions to our city — and is a beacon of hope to LGBTQ+ communities across our entire country."

Schiff is running to replace U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), who earlier this year said she would not seek reelection in 2024. He and Pelosi both addressed a sold out Pride breakfast held by the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club at the Hyatt Embarcadero Sunday morning. Mandelman and Engardio also spoke at the event.

Breed, who spoke at the Alice breakfast and rode in the parade, did not return a request for comment.

Dr. Rony François, a genderqueer gay man, is a clinical instructor and postdoctoral researcher in the departments of dermatology and pathology at UCSF. He marched with the UCSF/Alliance Health Project/San Francisco General Hospital Ward 86 contingent, along with another community grand marshal, Paul Aguilar, a longtime AIDS activist and HIV survivor.

"Currently LGBTQ+ rights, women's rights, QTBIPOC [queer, trans, Black and Indigenous people of color] communities are under attack in many parts of the nation, with the poor, unhoused, and undocumented experiencing disproportionately exponential marginalization," François stated. "Therefore, the theme of the UCSF contingent this year is Pride is protest! ... Given that these marginalized communities are underrepresented in science, medicine, and medical research, visibility is critical to achieving our broader goal of health equity."

Montana state Representative Zooey Zephyr (D), a trans woman, marched in the parade. She was the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club's guest of honor last Thursday at its Gayla. Earlier this year, as lawmakers considered a bill denying gender-affirming care for trans youth, Republicans in the Legislature forbade Zephyr from speaking on the House floor in the closing days of the session after she was critical of the bill. She ended up working on a laptop from a hallway in the capital. The Legislature passed the bill and Montana Governor Greg Gianforte (R) signed it into law.

"It's an honor to get to march with the Harvey Milk Club in this year's SF Pride," Zephyr said. "When we march, we carry with us the generations of LGBTQ people who came before us — people who fought and died in the fight for our rights. And in the face of this year's attacks on the LGBTQ community, we vow to celebrate our existence and work tirelessly until all LGBTQ Americans can live their lives in peace and joy."

A human butterfly led off the contingent demanding justice for Banko Brown, a Black trans man who was killed by a Walgreens security guard in April. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

Jonas Olsson, a gay San Franciscan, marched with his friend — gay community grand marshal Dr. Nasser Mohamed, the first-ever known Qatari to come out of the closet.

"I am lucky to be from Sweden and live in such an open and accepting city," Olsson said. "Walking in the parade gave me a rush and made me incredibly happy. When I got asked to walk in the parade this year, I felt compelled to do it after hearing Nas' and Tariq's stories. I want to walk for those who can't."