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    Pride and Prejudice

    By Joanie Juster–

    Happy Pride! Each year as the rainbow flags go up along Market Street, I find myself reflecting on Pride. I’m proud of everyone who has the courage to live their authentic life openly and proudly, often in the face of prejudice and threats. I’m proud of everyone who stands up to the bullies in their communities and in our legislative bodies who are attempting to silence and diminish them. And I’m especially proud of everyone who, despite those challenges, finds the strength and courage to face the world each day with joy, love, compassion, and yes, pride.

    Remember Their Names

    Saturday, June 11, dawned clear and bright in Golden Gate Park—one of those rare, perfect San Francisco summer days. In the sunny meadow, teams of volunteers started unfolding over 3,000 panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt, while other volunteers started reading the names from the Quilt over the sound system.

    “Steven Jacobs … Max Navalta … Andy M … Jessica Williams … .” Hour after hour, throughout the weekend, the names of the dead floated out over the Quilt, as visitors quietly, respectfully, and often tearfully walked through the display, viewing panel after panel after panel, immersed in beauty, love, and immense loss.

    “Steve Abeyta … Tom Horan … Baby Jessica … .” For two full days volunteers read over 15,000 names—a small fraction of the over 110,000 names represented in the Quilt. Many added the names of their own loved ones, a painful but courageous act that for many provided catharsis and release. At the Quilt, surrounded by people who had suffered similar losses, they found a family of people who understood what they had been through, and a safe place to talk about their pain.

    Thousands of people came to this 35th anniversary display of the Quilt, the largest in San Francisco history. Many came because the Quilt, and the early days of the AIDS epidemic, were essential, formative parts of their personal history. Caregivers, nurses and doctors, long-term survivors, all came and shared stories, and paid their respects to long-gone family, friends, lovers, patients, neighbors. Others had never seen the Quilt before, and found it to be a transformative experience. Walking through the middle of the display, it was impossible not to feel its power, and begin to understand.

    A new generation was introduced to the Quilt over the weekend. They learned about its history, how it grew out of both grief and protest. They saw how a community had come together to take care of its own when our government did not. They learned about loss, and compassion. Eyes and hearts were opened.

    The Quilt continues its work every day, as sections of the Quilt are on display all over the country. For more information, to volunteer, to make a panel, or to donate: https://tinyurl.com/ms6hbtha

    Take Me Out to the Ballgame

    Excitement was high on June 11 for the San Francisco Giants’ Pride Day. Players for both the Giants and the Dodgers wore Pride-themed caps, and Oakland’s own Amy Schneider, the transgender icon who won fame and fortune this year on Jeopardy! with the second-longest winning streak in the show’s history, threw out the first pitch.

    The San Francisco Giants have been at the forefront of being allies to the LGBTQ+ community for many years, long before there was a bandwagon to jump on. They have held an annual Until There’s a Cure Day since 1994, raising funds and awareness for HIV/AIDS, and their Pride Days have become popular annual events. In contrast, five members of the Tampa Bay Rays chose not to participate in their team’s Pride Night, claiming a “lifestyle … that maybe we don’t want to encourage.”

    Giants manager Gabe Kapler emphasized his support for the team’s Pride Day participation. “[I]t’s not enough to reluctantly accept any community. It is really important that everybody feels welcome and wanted and appreciated. And that is absolutely true for the LGBTQ+ community. We’re going to do everything in our power to ensure that the feeling of being welcomed is really evident in our ballpark.”

    Thank you, SF Giants, for leading by example and from the heart, and giving us one more reason to root for you. And congratulations, Amy!

    Let’s Be Careful Out There

    Pride Month may be a time of celebration and festivity, but this month has already proven that there is need for caution. On June 11, 31 members of the Patriot Front, an extremist hate group, were arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for threatening to attack a local Pride celebration. Arriving with plans for inciting a riot, they clearly meant business—and they were not alone.

    On the same day, five members of the extremist hate group Proud Boys burst into a public library in San Lorenzo, California, disrupting a peaceful Drag Queen Story Hour with homophobic and transphobic insults, terrorizing the performers, the library staff, and the children.

    On June 4, a Pride event in Karlsruhe, Germany, was violently disrupted when 30 men attacked the man carrying the rainbow flag, then beat others who were trying to help. They then stole the flag and burned it.

    These attacks are horrifying, but not surprising. They are a direct and predictable result of the increasingly hateful legislation being passed around our country and the world, and the increasingly hateful, homophobic verbal attacks by civic leaders. The haters are becoming bolder and more brazen. Turning the tide will take courageous, consistent effort from all of us, as well as voting out leaders who have so little regard for human rights. It is up to all of us to stop hate speech, and hateful actions, when we encounter them.

    While you’re celebrating Pride, please be careful out there, and watch out for each other.

    Training New Entrepreneurs

    The LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District is launching a nine-week Entrepreneur Training Program to help leather community entrepreneurs learn how to build their businesses from the ground up. Participants who complete the program will receive a $500 grant to help with startup costs.

    The program is intended for new or young businesses planning to either serve or locate in the LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District. Eddie Tang, a local, seasoned business consultant, will lead the program and share his knowledge of getting businesses going and keeping them healthy.

    Informational Zoom sessions are planned for Thursday, June 30, at 1 pm and 7 pm. Info & Zoom link: https://tinyurl.com/LeathBiz

    ICYMI: Pride for Everyone

    Pride celebrations are back in full swing, and it would be impossible to make a comprehensive list of all the events in the Bay Area. You undoubtedly know about some of the bigger ones, like the SF Pride Parade, the Dyke March, and the Trans March. But here are a few others that are proud and inclusive:

    Through June 26: The Oakland Black Pride Festival has returned with a theme of “Happy Hereafter.” All the events carry the positive message of “finding our happiness now and prospecting it in times to come,” an important sentiment in these uncertain times. The festival opened with “Breaking Bread,” a six-course meal prepared by Chef Zeus, then continuing with a Queer Pub Crawl, Queer Expo, an adults-only Black Pride Party on Saturday night, and a wrap up on Sunday the 26th with Black Masq: A Masqueerade Gala. https://tinyurl.com/OPB22On Friday, June 24, The Bayard Rustin Coalition and Soul of Pride will present their 2022 Pride Reception, “Let’s Celebrate Love,” at Art Attack SF (2358 Market St.). The event will feature African Diaspora art, wine, delicious bites, and lively music. Come honor SF Pride Grand Marshals, Black community leaders, the African-American LGBTQ Community, friends, and allies. https://tinyurl.com/BRCPride

    You might have to clone yourself to cover all the events, but my own annual favorite is Gary Virginia and Donna Sachet’s Pride Brunch benefiting PRC, this year on Saturday, June 25, Marking its 24th year, the Pride Brunch is a joyful celebration of the Pride spirit. One of the highlights: Grand Marshals of the SF Pride Parade are honored at this event. It is a rare and wonderful opportunity to meet the Grand Marshals, and hear them tell their stories. This year the Pride Brunch will be at the elegant Westin St. Francis Hotel Grand Ballroom, and will feature live music, hosted bars, a delicious 3-course meal, silent and live auction, and much more. Gary and Donna’s brunch benefits PRC’s integrated legal, social, and behavioral health services for those affected by HIV/AIDS, mental health issues, and substance abuse. https://tinyurl.com/pridebrunch2022

    The third annual People’s March and Rally, on Sunday, June 26, will be a potent reminder that Pride began as a protest. The march and rally—a grassroots effort produced without corporate support—will once again be led by activists Alex U. Inn and Juanita MORE! in support of all Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples, as well as trans and queer family, friends, lovers, and neighbors. True to its activist roots, the event advocates for social justice and systemic change. And despite its serious intent, it is also colorful, joyful, community-oriented, and inspiring. It begins at 10:30 am at Washington and Polk Streets, and marches down Polk Street. https://fb.me/e/1FlyIi9lj

    There are many options for celebrating Pride. Wherever and however you celebrate, may your Pride be safe and joyful!

    Joanie Juster is a long-time community volunteer, activist, and ally.

    Published on June 23, 2022