San Francisco’s Pride celebration was in full swing as a sea of tens of thousands of revelers filled Dolores Park and the surrounding area on a balmy, 75-degree Saturday afternoon.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, San Francisco Dyke March kicked off from 18th and Dolores Streets. Organizers say on their website that this march is a call to action.
“We’re calling all dykes. Each and every one of you — to take up your space and hold it close to you as we hold on for our lives. As we hold on to each other.”
For this year’s Pride-goers, it seems there’s more at stake, as many in the community feel they’ve come under fire from the current administration.
Malachi Lee, 36, attends Pride to support his partner Kristin Thomas, 36, who identifies as queer.
“Pride, to me, means freedom. Freedom of expression, freedom to be a human being, freedom to love,” he says.
“It’s important right now because we live in an environment where we’re caging children — an environment of separatism, classism, racism. We can grow as a community together no matter our gender, race, or how we express ourselves,” Lee adds.
Others feel that Pride has lost its authenticity. “I hate SF Pride,” says Alisha Cannon. “The only reason I’m here is to support a friend who is coming out as trans tonight.”
This is Cannon’s fifth Pride, and they feel that every year it gets bigger and more commercial.
“They’re so many straight people who come to party, but don’t do the hard work of advocacy and calling out family members when the party’s over,” they say. “It’s a capitalist opportunity to put a rainbow on stuff so people buy it. And it works, because I’m gonna buy it!”
Their companion, Krystale Ramirez, agrees: “It sucks what it’s turned into, but I’m here because I want to party with queer people and you won’t see this many queer people in one place like this outside of Pride. I’m here for the ladies.”
For many of the attendees, Pride is an opportunity to feel safe and be surrounded by community.
“I’m here with my sister from Idaho, who brought her wife — it’s their first time,” says Nay Hulsey about sister, RJ Hulsey.
“I do my best to do that all year around and not just at Pride. Pride is just being in public all the time as yourself and being proud,” they say.
Update, 7 p.m.: The Dyke March was in full swing, bringing thousands to join in the procession that started right at 18th and Mission. It was led by a group motorcyclists cruising behind a police escort, followed by thousands of others. There were signs, chants, dancing — and even a wedding proposal — as the Dyke March headed North on Valencia, then along 16th Street towards Market and then took a swing by the Castro until it returned to Dolores Park.
Devon Sarabia has been going to Pride for almost nine years. A San Jose resident, Sarabia says the entire atmosphere and vibe of the park makes her feel at home and accepted.
“I missed last year, but normally I’ve been coming since I was 17,” she said.
She said her boss, a DJ, is playing at the Chapel and she planned attending an afterparty and a cruise ship party.
Hanz De Guzman, left, has attended Pride for the past few years. He’s been a San Francisco resident since 1993.
“I didn’t used to go until the last five years; we tried to avoid it,” De Guzman said.
Nowadays, he shows up early to save his place in Dolores Park. Today he arrived at 1 p.m. to reserve a spot underneath palm trees. It was prime real estate as people crammed themselves under the generous shade. De Guzman loved that he had to get used to the tight constraints of the park on Saturday; it forced him to meet new people and make new friends.
Constance Smith, left, flew in from Texas to experience the Pride weekend. She was previously living in a small town in Oregon, where the queer scene wasn’t as big as it is in San Francisco. Even the Dallas scene doesn’t compare.
“I wanted to get back to the big city,” she said.
Phillip Whitfield, middle, who identifies as non-binary, said he had been exposed to it by his mother, who identifies as queer. He was showing his friend Constance and Hanna Walters (right) around San Francisco. Both Walters and Whitfield live in the city.
Update, 8 p.m.:
Marchers returned to Dolores Park, where the party continued. Locals and tourists alike were in high spirits, and attendees were all smiles as they basked in the fading sun and the sense of community that Pride creates.
Linci Comy remembers the Pride celebrations of the past. “I’ve been coming to Pride for decades, since the ’70s,” she said. “The biggest difference now is that we’re not as drunk as we used to be. During the AIDS epidemic, we spent Pride forgetting all of our pain. Now we’re celebrating a lot more.”
As a 20-year San Francisco resident, M. Rocket sees, “more crowds now and more dudebros here, just taking up space.”
While the day is one for celebration, attendees recalled the origins of the event. “Well, this all started with a riot,” Singh said. “We’re out here to protect the rights we fought for and defend love and community, especially with the current administration.”
Carig added, “Visibility is important. It’s very important for us to be out here making a big presence to show we’re still here. We’re still part of an underrepresented community, aside from all the sponsors and advertisers.”
As the sun set on Dolores Park, droves of partiers poured out of the park and into the nearby streets and businesses. At Ali Baba’s Cave on Valencia and 19th Streets, the line was non-stop starting at 1 p.m., and staff didn’t anticipate it dying down until they closed at 11. “This is the best day of the year for us and we look forward to it,” said staff member Lena Dawah. “Small businesses like us need this.”