Chris Alongi, 42, and his daughter Inara, 9, walked up to the colorful Castro stage dotted with unicorn balloons. Nearby, crowds on Noe Street between Market and Beaver streets were entertained by petting zoos, wand-making booths and a woman in stilts.
But even among the llamas with flower crowns, it was not lost on Alongi how recently many LGBTQ rights have been won. The right to marry, Alongi explained to his daughter, didn’t exist until 2014.
“You’re still living through the LGBT civil rights movement,” Alongi told his daughter as they waited to watch the drag queens and kings perform during the Castro’s first annual Pride Weekend Family Block Party.
As drag performers strutted down the runway while lip syncing Aqua’s “Barbie Girl,” or read children’s books, the message was loud and clear: embrace who you are. For Angoli, Pride is not just a celebration, but also a way to help him educate his children about LGBTQ people. “I feel like Pride is a thing that makes people feel like themselves,” Inara said.
Educating his two children on intolerance towards LGBTQ people is not something that Angoli feels like he has done in-depth. But he knows that such talks will happen at Pride.
“It’s important for her to think about how LGBTQ people are mistreated in society,” Angoli said.
Even after years of legislative progress, LGBTQ rights, freedom and safety are under attack. This year, a number of anti-LGBTQ bills were passed in states around the country, the most notorious being the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bars public schools in Florida from teaching any material related to sexual orientation or gender identity. Florida governor Ron DeSantis and his supporters have also labeled anyone who is against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill a groomer, emboldening the harmful stereotype that members of the LGBTQ community are predators.
Angoli wasn’t the only parent who saw Pride as a form of education for children. Eric Koszyk, 48, and his family were visiting from Portland, Oregon, and thought it would be fun to take their kids to Pride. “It’s just a great community,” said Koszyk, who grew up in the East Bay, as his daughter poured pink glitter onto his arm.
Koszyk said Pride illustrates through experience “that there’s a variety of people on Earth” and that love doesn’t have to just be between a man and a woman.
“We don’t know who our children are going to be, and we want them to be happy with who they are,” Koszyk said.
Koszyk also recalled hearing about an attempt from the right-wing group Patriot Front to riot at a Pride event in Boise, Idaho. For Koszyk, hearing about this event, as well as the slew of anti-LGBTQ legislation, was both maddening and laughable. “Kids aren’t going to be hurt by seeing drag,” he said.
He hasn’t personally talked with his daughters about the anti-LGBTQ events in the news, but he’s taken his daughters to the African-American Museum in Washington, D.C., where he had to help explain in simple terms America’s history of anti-Black racism. His oldest daughter, Sierra, 7, also watches documentaries on difficult topics with him and his wife.
Other parents used books to help educate their children on intolerance towards LGBTQ people. Timothy Gillihan, 39, reads the book “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo” to his children. The book is about a bunny, Marlon Bundo, and his same-sex relationship with another rabbit named Wesley. The book is a loose parody of “Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President,” which details the life of former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s rabbit.
“It’s a very cute book,” Gillihan said.
Gilllihan and others, however, agreed the best education was having their children meet other people who identify as LGBTQ. Gillihan, who’s been going to Pride every year since 2006, noted that it was exciting that all the kids get to see “diverse people and go to this event,” particularly in light of recent anti-LGBTQ events.
‘We can’t let them win.’
As far as coming to the block party, Koszyk didn’t express any safety concerns. Some parents, however, did question if coming to the block party was a good idea, given the recent attacks at some LGBTQ events.
Rafael Ramos, 40, and his wife began coming to San Francisco’s Pride events in 2008 when they stumbled upon their first Pride event “by accident.” The Santa Ana couple hesitated this year after hearing about the attack in San Leandro, in which a neo-fascist group stormed a drag queen storytime event. The Ramoses’ concerns were heightened by the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the Uvalde mass shooting.
Ramos’ two youngest daughters, Eleanor and Vida, asked him lots of questions after hearing about events like San Leandro and Uvalde. “Why don’t they like people like us? Why do these people do these things? Is something going to happen to us?” they asked. It was questions like these that made going to Pride all the more important.
“We didn’t want to back down,” Ramos said. “We wanted to teach our children to stand up to hate, to stand up when horrible things happen. We can’t let them win.”