By Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
The LGBTQ+ community, friends and allies came out in droves this year with a record breaking estimated 300,000 crowd at the San Diego Pride Parade and 50,000 attending the San Diego Pride Festival. San Diego Pride made history once again this year with the first military flyover Saturday morning in a salute to transgender military service members from Cal Guard’s Fresno 144th Fighter Wing. Preceding Pride, the Stonewall Rally reveled the crowd. Held in conjunction with the Pride of Hillcrest Block Party, (hosted by the Hillcrest Business Association, Fabulous Hillcrest, Hillcrest Pride Flag, San Diego Pride, Hillcrest Farmers Market and SDPIX Presents) pride shined throughout the event charging the community for the festivities of the weekend.
San Diego’s Pride Parade grows each year, with this year’s parade bring more than 240 contingents. As a military town, this year’s parade put even a larger emphasis on military service members with trans military service members helping kick off the parade in lead.
This year’s festival had the largest selection of LGBTQ entertainment in its history, including headliners King Princess and Melissa Etheridge who closed out the Stonewall Stage on Saturday and Sunday night. With four stages, the festival’s lineup made it an inclusive weekend of entertainment with its cultural mix of performing artists.
All of this, following more than a week of events leading up to this year’s Pride, made for an exciting week with events fit for all in the community.
Keynote speaker Dwayne Crenshaw, former executive director of San Diego Pride and co-founder and CEO of RISE San Diego said that the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots made this year a momentous occasion about the legacy of liberation that began that night and still continues today. Inviting all of the San Diego region’s elected officials and their representatives on stage he said that San Diego now has more LGBTQ elected officials than San Francisco.
“It’s about the legacy of liberation that began that night and continues today,” Crenshaw said. “With all of you [elected LGBTQ representatives] we are building a legacy of liberation in honor and in celebration of our founders, of our family, the outcasts, the most marginalized, the most vulnerable getting tired of getting sick and tired.”
He said that the Stonewall riots showed that the LGBTQ community had had enough. They wanted to be able to step out of the shadows, the closet, to toss aside any shame or guilt, and to be respected with basic human dignity, to have pride.
“You, us, together we are San Diego Pride and we are liberating our people. In 1974, people marched with paper bags on their heads,” Crenshaw said. “The next year they came back and made this a city recognized celebration and it has gone on strong ever since. The LGBTQ movement has had some of its biggest victories right here in San Diego.”
In going over San Diego’s victories over the years, he noted that San Diego brought the first Harvey Milk street in the country. But that there was more that San Diego did as first in the nation in building a strong LGBTQ community.
“All of you made sure that all of San Diego city schools had an LGBTQ curriculum,” Crenshaw said. “San Diego Pride was the first to launch and create International Pride not for just us here in San Diego, but for LGBTQ people around the world where our brothers and sisters can literally be killed for being who they are. In 2011, we were the first Pride in the country to have active duty service members march in our parade. And if that wasn’t enough, we came back the next year with the first military contingent in uniform approved by the Pentagon to march in any Pride parade in the country. I believe that we have such a great legacy of leadership and a great legacy of liberation, San Diego and the largest military town, we will be the ones who will continue to build our legacy of liberation and pave the way in saying, ‘Hell no!’ We will not turn our backs on transgender persons in our military. On marriage and families, when California got it wrong we here in San Diego got it right. [No on Prop. 8]. There were rallies across the country saying that it wasn’t right. The largest rally on that weekend was the 20,000 of you. We lead the way for liberation.”
At the rally, due to the recent attacks against the transgender community, colors were presented by transgender veterans and active duty personnel and the national anthem sung by Mila Jam, American transgender singer, songwriter, dancer, actress and LGBTQ activist.
Keynote speaker Bixby Marino-Kibbee (They/Them/Theirs) said in their opinion, the Stonewall Rally is the most important event of the weekend.
“This is the part of Pride that reminds us why we are here,” Marino-Kibbee said. “This is the time that we pause and reflect on why it is that we are able to have a Pride parade. I’m able to stand on this stage as an out nonbinary trans person and speak with you tonight because of transgender women of color. Because of people like Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. Women who were accused of being too loud, too opinionated. Women who were told that their needs were too controversial. We must never forget who paved the way and on who’s shoulders we stand on today. Gender identity is not a special interest, it’s not a passing phase, it’s a component of our identity. Names and pronouns are nonnegotiable. They literally save lives. If a young person trusts you enough to tell you how they would like to be addressed it’s up to you to honor that request. We need to stop enforcing a binary understanding of gender.”
Keynote speaker San Diego LGBT Community Center CEO Caroline (Cara) Dessert, Esq. said that in the last 50 years we, as a community, have learned many things.
“We know that LGBT people are everywhere,” Dessert said. “We’re all races, and places, all genders and ages and occupations. We are parents, co-workers, neighbors. We are even World Cup champions and candidates for president of the United States.”
Dessert added that we now also know that some LGBTQ people are immigrants or have an immigrant in their family. There are more than 300,000 undocumented LGBTQ people in the nation and millions more who are U.S. born citizens, LGBTQ people with families that include immigrant spouses and children.
“The fight for LGBT rights is inseparable for the fight for immigration rights because immigrants are our community,” Dessert said. “For San Diegans, a border community, this matters even more. Our region made national headlines when the government’s zero policy forced families apart and separated parents from their children. Our nation’s collective outrage about the inhumane treatment of immigrants was happening in our own back yard. That means we have to fight back. We must stand together as San Diego’s LGBTQ community to say that immigration is our issue. In the 50 years since Stonewall we have learned through each hard-won victory that this community has learned one powerful lesson. We can do incredible things together as one, strong, powerful, fierce queer community.”
San Diego Pride Executive Director Fernando Zweifach López (They/Them/Theirs) reminded everyone that we don’t have Pride because we are free, but rather we have Pride because we are not due to systemic legal oppression and systemic social oppression.
“That is what our society was fighting 50 years ago at Stonewall and that is what we are still fighting today,” they said. “In 1969 our community was considered mentally ill. Our love was devalued. And they ways that we expressed our gender, our intimacy, were literally criminal acts. But over the years as our bars were raided, our young ones ejected from their homes and people fired from their jobs.”
López said that in the summer of 1969 the LGBTQ community unlocked its own power and fought back against police brutality and since then have not let the momentum stop.
“The first Pride in San Diego was held at a time when it was legal to lobotomize gay men,” they said. “Many people had paper bags over their heads because they were afraid. They wanted to protect their identities, their careers and their very lives. But over the decades the San Diego region and San Diego Pride have been at the leading edge in fighting for our community’s rights and protections.”
Spirit of Stonewall Awards were presented at the rally, with the first given to the “Stonewall Generation” this year’s Community Grand Marshall. At the rally, they recognized several people in San Diego that have used their lives to empower the LGBTQ community throughout their lives.
Those honored: Nicole Murray Ramirez, one of Pride’s original founders and Queen Mother of the Americas of the Imperial Court System, Jeri Dilno, who helped Pride organize for all 45 years of its existence, Patrick McCarron, San Diego Chapter of Dignity, and Doug Moore, founding member of San Diego Pride.
The Spirit of Stonewall Awards also recognized Community Service awardee Abráhn Monzán, Champion of Pride awardee LaRue Fields, Friends of Pride awardee The Very Reverend Penny Bridges, Stonewall Philanthropy awardee Blue Shield of California, the Stonewall Service Award awardee The San Diego History Center, and the Inspirational Couple Award went to Ricardo Gallego and Orlando Espín.
— Albert Fulcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.