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    This Year’s Pride Carries an Increased Sense of Urgency

    By Joanie Juster–

    Looking back on my Pride column from this time last year, it seemed like a more innocent time, before Florida went completely bananas and became a rogue state, and other red states joined them, slashing and burning human rights at every turn, and doing their darndest to erase LGBTQ+ people from public life.

    This year feels different. The threats are very real, not just from individual armed bigots, but from our local and state elected officials—the very people charged with protecting people and our democracy. In the face of this endless onslaught of attacks on drag performers, trans youth, librarians, teachers, doctors, and LGBTQ+ people and their allies in general, this year’s Pride carries an increased sense of urgency. The increased need to protect both the physical safety of LGBTQ+ people and their very right to exist openly in this country demands that we all stand up and be counted. It requires strength. It requires defiance. It requires thoughtful, sustained resistance. And as the haters try to shut you down, it requires more. More glitter. More feathers. More rainbows. More love. And always, ALWAYS, more joy.

    SF Giants Pride Night

    The Los Angeles Dodgers generated a month of high-pitch drama when they announced they were honoring the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence during their annual Pride Night, then rescinded the invitation upon being pressured by conservative right-wing groups, then re-invited the Sisters after a massive public outcry in response to their cowardly move.

    Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants quietly went ahead with their own Pride Night, holding a peaceful, festive, joyful event where the only drama was whether newly-appointed Drag Laureate D’Arcy Drollinger would be able to get the first pitch over home plate (spoiler alert: they did). The ballpark was filled with happy baseball fans—both gay and straight—wearing the coveted Pride jersey that was given to the first 20,000 fans. A group of LGBTQ+ elected officials raised the Trans and Progress flags over the outfield. A special pre-game party dedicated to the memory of Heklina ended with prominent drag leaders parading around the ballpark to cheers from the crowds. And when D’Arcy Drollinger put on a comic master class on the pitcher’s mound prior to throwing out the first pitch, the crowd went wild.

    Note to the Dodgers: This is how you hold a Pride event: You work WITH the community. And you spread joy.

    Fighting Back Against Book Bans

    For too many months the news has been filled with stories of books being challenged, removed, or outright banned from schools and libraries, usually due to LGBTQ+ content, or because the books address issues of race or racism. Conservative groups fanning the flames of the culture wars under the guise of “protecting the children” have urged parents across the country to file objections to books they haven’t even bothered to read—and too often, those books disappear off of shelves due to a sole person’s objection.

    Organizations like the ACLU, PEN America, the American Library Association, Florida Freedom to Read Project, and many others have been working together to help communities fight back against this ideological censorship. Students need to see themselves and the world they live in reflected in the books they read. When those books disappear off the shelves, they feel erased, and threatened.

    GLAAD has taken up this issue, producing a playbook for communities to fight back against book banning. It is going to take engaged communities working together to fight this plague of censorship. You can download GLAAD’s playbook here. And if your community is working on fighting book bans, I would love to hear from you:

    4th Annual People’s March and Rally … and Music Festival!

    Born during the COVID lockdown of 2020 and the turmoil of the George Floyd protests, the People’s March and Rally continues to draw a passionately committed crowd on Pride Sunday. Proudly non-corporate, organized by activists Alex U. Inn and Juanita MORE!, and led by Black, Brown, and Indigenous queer people, this march is both a grassroots labor of love and a defiant call to action, centering the needs of the most marginalized in our community, and calling for public money to be reallocated for social services, mental healthcare providers, and social justice. It is also joyfully defiant, and uplifting. It begins with a rally at Polk and Washington Streets in San Francisco on Sunday, June 25 at 11 am, then proceeds right down Polk Street—the route of the first Gay Liberation protest in 1970—directly to Fern Alley, where there will be a Fern Alley Music Festival from noon to 6 pm, featuring DJs and performers. Fern Alley just happens to be a short skip to Juanita MORE!’s legendary Pride Party, so if you managed to score a coveted ticket to that event, the March will take you right there.

    More Pride, More Joy

    There are SO many events, parties, and performances during June that no one could list them all. But here are a few worth checking out through the end of June that you might have missed:

    The Bayard Rustin Coalition and Soul of Pride are hosting their annual Pride Weekend Kickoff Reception on Friday, June 23, at the Ula Grand Ballroom in San Francisco. They will be honoring the SF Pride Grand Marshals and Black community leaders. Enjoy African Diaspora art, cocktails, delicious bites, and lively music. All are welcome. RSVP at:

    For sheer magnitude of celebratory Pride events, look no farther than Parivar Bay Area’s website. The number and variety of their Pride events is enough to lift your spirits and get you in the mood to celebrate. Parivar Bay Area is America’s only Transgender-led, Transgender-centering South Asian organization, and their Pride events reflect the breadth, diversity, global scope, intersectionality, and joy of the work they do in the community. They have Pride events every single day in June; check them out here:

    Oakland Black Pride is once again closing out Pride Month with a series of events that range from a 7-course tasting dinner to an exploration of kinky expression to a queer pub crawl. All the events are designed to improve economic opportunities, access to safe spaces, and wellness resources for Black LGBTQ+ people, and strengthen the community through accountability and collaboration. See all their events and learn more about their work here:

    It is heartening to see Pride celebrations popping up all over the Bay Area, even in some of the smaller towns. While a truly comprehensive list might be impossible, this link gives you an idea of how communities around the Bay are celebrating:

    Queens of the Castro Scholarships

    If you were lucky enough to attend the evening with Jane Fonda at the Castro Theatre that kicked off Pride Month on June 1, you got to enjoy the Queens of the Castro as they started the festivities by sashaying through the aisles, then leading the audience in a surprisingly refreshing set of seated warm-up exercises. In addition to being festive entertainers and experienced fitness gurus, Queens of the Castro are activists with a serious purpose. Since 2011, they have been supporting and creating safer spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, ages 16–25. Their list of accomplishments to date is impressive, including planning and implementing dozens of drag shows in California, educating teachers and students about gender identity, supporting the work of drag performers in California, connecting LGBTQ+ youth with drag mentors, and granting more than $250,000 in scholarships to youth.

    The scholarships are mostly granted to youth pursuing higher education in the sciences, math, and other academic fields. However, QOC member Grace Towers decided to take things one step farther, creating the Grace Towers Scholarship for the Arts, to encourage LGBTQ+ youth who want to explore self-expression and creativity through the arts. Said Towers, “Oftentimes when words fail us, as artists, we turn to our creative practice. It really helped me during times in my youth that were difficult. This is my way of being the mentor I needed when I was a younger version of myself. By letting our youth know that their art is appreciated, seen, and important, we can continue to collaborate on our commitment to raising awareness about LGBTQ+ issues and stories of resilience.”

    Applications for this year’s Queens of the Castro Scholarships are due at 11:59 pm PDT on June 30, 2023. Due to a high volume of applicants, incomplete submissions will not be considered. For application information, go to:

    Mark Your Calendar: AIDS Walk Returns to Golden Gate Park on July 16

    Since 1987, AIDS Walk San Francisco has brought together people from all over the Bay Area to raise crucial funding for a number of local organizations that support people with HIV or AIDS. Full disclosure: I have been part of AIDS Walk San Francisco since 1988, and what drew me to this event in the beginning is what I still find compelling: Anyone can participate, and anyone can make a difference, no matter their age, income, or level of ability. They only need to bring their heart, and a desire to help.

    What brings me back year after year is a memory from an AIDS Walk in the late 1990s. In those days, walkers would turn in the donations they had collected in the form of envelopes full of checks and cash. I opened one fat envelope turned in by a young teenage boy. Inside was over $200, all in $1, $5, and $10 bills. That boy had asked everyone he knew to help him raise money to help people with AIDS—something that was NOT easy for a teenage boy to do in those days. The heart and courage behind that boy’s efforts made me cry that day, and have inspired me ever since.

    You can make a difference, too. Whether you walk as an individual, or part of a team, the funds you raise will make a difference to organizations right here in the Bay Area. Sign up to walk, or to support a walker, here:

    Go Forth and Celebrate

    I hope to see many of you at the Trans March, Gary & Donna’s Pride Brunch, Frameline, SF Pride’s parade, the People’s March & Rally, and many other events. Please stay safe, stay proud, and don’t let anyone steal your joy. Happy Pride, everyone!

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

    In Case You Missed It
    Published on June 22, 2023