Berkeley hosts 15th annual Pride event

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About 250 students and Berkeley residents attended the 15th annual Berkeley Pride event Monday afternoon, which took place at Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse and featured some of the Bay Area’s most renowned performers and speakers.

“Berkeley Pride 365: First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage” was both a celebration and an educational event about the LGBTQ community. Important speakers included the first openly transgender superior court judge, Victoria Kolakowski, famous whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg and ASUC Executive Vice President Nolan Pack. The event also featured drag shows as well as entertainment acts from singers and circus members.

“This is about people coming together and dancing and having a celebration but also to have a lot of local leaders talk about what’s going on around theSupreme Court decisions and specifically what’s going on within the LGBTQ community in Berkeley,” said UC Berkeley student and event volunteer Ella Bastone.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, host of Berkeley Pride and the first openly gay elected representative on Berkeley City Council, remembers a time not so long ago when discussion of queer rights was considered taboo in the Bay Area.

“When we first started working on marriage equality, even in Berkeley, it was somewhat controversial,” Worthington said. “There wasn’t a unanimous vote at City Council when I proposed promoting marriage equality.”

Times have changed over the past 15 years since Berkeley Pride first began, but Worthington feels that some groups in the LGBTQ spectrum who do not identify as either “gay” or “lesbian” are not receiving adequate attention at pride festivals.

“Change is still needed on transgender issues,” Worthington said. “Today, very few people really know much about (them).”

Worthington said organizers made a special effort to include all members of the LGBTQ family, which represents the wide continuum of sexuality, including straight speakers and performers.

“Today is definitely less gay and more queer,” said Kirill, a UC Berkeley student and member of transgender student activist group Trans*Action, who does not use a last name.

According to Worthington, the drizzly weather may have led to a lower turnout than expected but did not dampen the overall spirit of Berkeley Pride. Berkeley residents and their children still enjoyed locally catered food, played in jump houses and participated in a resource fair — a departure from the boisterous festivities of the neighboring San Francisco Pride Parade.

“At this event, you can actually meet people who live in the Berkeley area,” said Pacific Center for Human Growth facility rental and volunteer coordinator Leo Brown. “It’s less touristy than other pride events.”

Contact Nico Correia at [email protected]