Standing at the corner of 19th and Dolores Streets, a woman — with a pride flag draped over her shoulders as if it were a cape — observes the buzzing, pre-Dyke March atmosphere in front of her. 

Within a few seconds, she disappears into a crowd of people who are donning bright, rainbow-striped outfits and twirling equally colorful umbrellas. 

Just a few hours before the Dyke March on Saturday afternoon, thousands of LGBTQ people and their allies came together as a community at Mission Dolores Park to show their pride and celebrate inclusion and acceptance. 

Veronica Lujan, Nicole Lavay, Pippa Russo and Eliza Russo. Photo by Jennifer Cortez.

“It’s not very often that we have events for queer women,” said Nicole Lavay, as she sat alongside her group of friends, “especially since we don’t have permanent spaces. It’s nice to know that this happens every year.” 

For Elizabeth James, who has attended the city’s pride festivities for the last 14 years, it’s an occasion for others “to be who they want to be,” free of judgment. 

And it’s not an event to be overlooked. 

“We get to take up the streets of San Francisco for a whole weekend,” she said. “I mean, we even got shit at stores: We’ve got Gap and H&M representing for gay pride.” 

Elizabeth James and Shyne Banks. Photo by Jennifer Cortez.

In contrast, Erica Hemenway specifically prefers the Dyke March to Sunday’s pride parade, as she has become disillusioned with the corporate sponsorships of pride. 

“This feels more like a block party with all the local queers and their friends,” said Hemenway. 

Marena Tynan La Fontaine agreed. “No one here is being sponsored by anyone,” she said. “They’re just here to hang out.” 

As a teenager, Hemenway was aware that there was a bigger and more accepting world outside of her small, conservative hometown. She just didn’t know how to get there yet. 

“To say that ‘things get better’ is a cliché,” she said. 

“But it does!” Tynan La Fontaine chimed in. 

“It does,” continued Hemenway, “but if there was one thing I could have told my teenage self, it would have been that you don’t need to look to somebody else to figure out who you are. You can be who you are: Just find a mirror and find a role model there.” 

Marena Tynan La Fontaine and Erica Hemenway. Photo by Jennifer Cortez.

Eventually, she added, positive role models can be easy to find once “you get into the bigger world,” but emphasized that “it’s more important to find the entirety of yourself in you.” 

Whether one prefers the term dyke, queer or gay, many shared that reclaiming these words to describe the LGBTQ community is important. 

Jena Hayashi and Krys Cortez. Photo by Jennifer Cortez.

“It’s powerful,” said Jena Hayashi, who has attended the city’s pride festivities as a tradition with friends for nearly a decade. “I’m all for that. In any way possible.” 

While she feels fortunate that San Francisco is inclusive, she hopes that younger generations fully embrace and enjoy who they are in the Bay Area. 

“The way it’s so normal to be out and gay here, it’s not like that everywhere,” she said, “so rep it.” 

Camila Cruzado (third from left) with her mom, Nidia, and two friends, Nayla Tep and Cristian Morales. Photo by Jennifer Cortez.

And indeed they are.

“I feel free,” said 16-year-old Camila Cruzado, who is attending pride for the first time with her mom and friends. “Even if I can’t be myself in my country or with my family, I can be myself at Pride. I can be myself here.”