2019 marks the 49th annual San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and Celebration, which will occur Saturday and Sunday. The parade will take place Sunday, with festivities beginning at 10:30 a.m. An estimated 100,000 people are expected to flank Market Street in San Francisco as about 50,000 participants march from Embarcadero to the Civic Center. Additionally, there will be more than 200 contingents and exhibitors and about 20 venues and community-run stages.
This annual event is put on by the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Celebration Committee, a nonprofit organization dedicated to education and the celebration of LGBTQ+ culture, liberation and heritage, according to the San Francisco Pride website.
According to San Francisco Pride spokesperson Fred Lopez, the parade takes a year to prepare for — even with full-time staff.
“There are people who are working on it as soon as the day after the event … for next year,” Lopez said.
This is because putting on the parade involves speaking to and coordinating with San Francisco officials, health and safety services and representatives of parade contingents.
This year, the Saturday festivities on the main stage near Civic Center Plaza will be hosted by Persia, a drag performer and artist, and Yves Saint Croissant, a drag performer and co-creator of the queer club Creature SF. Saturday’s performers will also include a theater company called Bay Area Musicals, the band Candelaria and singer-songwriter-producer Samiere. The Sunday stage will be hosted by Sister Roma, an activist, writer and self-described nun, and Honey Mahogany, a business owner, activist and founder of Compton’s Transgender Cultural District. The lineup includes performances from artists such as Book of Love and Pansy Division, presentations from state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and transgender retired Navy SEAL Kristin Beck, and appearances from the cast of the Starz television show, “Vida.”
‘Generations of Resistance’
San Francisco Pride is a membership-based organization in which members have a voice in the operations of the organization, such as choosing the annual theme of the parade.
According to Lopez, the themes chosen for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 parades are related to one another.
“When we were thinking about how to approach our 50th anniversary — and last year’s theme resonated so strongly with so many people — we saw an opportunity to really expand that theme into a trilogy. 2018 was ‘Generations of Strength,’ and 2019, this year, is ‘Generations of Resistance,’ ” Lopez said. “That is to acknowledge the fact that plenty of people around the world are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, which a lot of people considered to be the birth of the modern gay rights movement.”
According to Lopez, although the Stonewall riots are commemorated in the 2019 theme, “Generations of Resistance” is also a tribute to the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in San Francisco in 1966, three years before the Stonewall riots. A group of trans women inside Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a popular queer gathering spot and restaurant in the Tenderloin district, were fed up with police harassment, and a riot broke out. According to Lopez, Compton’s Cafeteria Riot “wasn’t necessary recognized as the watershed moment that Stonewall is.”
“(The theme is to acknowledge) that San Francisco has an LGBT history that is steeped in the roots of resistance and also thinking of the future and understanding how persistence can be a force, not only against something, but again, for something — for positive and progressive change,” Lopez said.
Next year, the theme for San Francisco’s 50th Pride celebration will be “Generations of Hope,” which, according to Lopez, will look forward into the next 50 years of LGBTQ+ liberation.
Keeping it safe
With thousands of spectators gathering along the sidewalks and in front of the main stage, there could be numerous safety concerns. However, according to Lopez, San Francisco Pride works closely with city agencies to ensure a safe, healthy and clean environment.
“We have to obtain the proper permits to take the streets, and we work with the Department of Emergency Management to have contingency plans in place for everybody’s safety. We work with fire and police and public health to make sure that everybody is happy and healthy and safe for our event,” Lopez said. “We have to work also with the department of public works to make sure that everything is cleaned up and taken care of before and after the parade.”
An article detailing safety during Pride Week on the San Francisco Police Department’s website notes that there will be a significant police presence during the parade, with officers both in uniform and in plainclothes.
San Francisco Pride is one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world, according to the article, which is why SFPD’s No. 1 priority is the security of the participants. The article also states that all attendees are responsible for their own safety.
“The men and women of the San Francisco Police Department want to make sure everyone attending Pride feels welcome in our diverse, vibrant city,” Police Chief William Scott said in the article from SFPD. “We are working closely with event organizers and our partner agencies to ensure people can celebrate love, equality and unity in a safe and joyful environment.”
All individuals will be subject to a screening upon entry. Alcohol, bags over 18 by 18 inches, and other items are strictly prohibited, according to the San Francisco Pride website.
Joining the parade
More than 280 contingents, including affinity organizations and local businesses, are expected to march down Market Street on Sunday. One of these groups will be Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays San Francisco, or PFLAG SF, an organization that has participated in San Francisco Pride since the parade was first put on, according to UC Berkeley lecturer and PFLAG member Ray Hawkins.
PFLAG was created after its founder Jeanne Manford marched with her gay son in the 1972 Christopher Street Liberation Day March in New York City. According to PFLAG’s website, after groups of LGBTQ+ people approached Manford and asked if she could help them talk to their parents, she started a support group that later evolved into PFLAG. PFLAG’s mission is to unite LGBTQ+ persons “with families, friends, and allies” and advance equality through “support, education, and advocacy,” according to its website.
Hawkins has personally attended the parade at least a half a dozen times and said he values the experience as a chance to support LGBTQ+ members.
“We’re there to state that we are unequivocally supportive of our kids and we’re willing to publicly say so, and we’re also there for all of the people on the sides of the street whose parents won’t be there,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said that while in the parade, PFLAG participants wave to onlookers while either walking or riding in the PFLAG bus.
Hawkins’ favorite part of being in a parade contingent is watching the impact that PFLAG has on others.
“(My favorite part is) just seeing all the smiling and crying faces, knowing that our presence there is speaking to people on a variety of levels … making the people feel like there’s somebody out there who cares,” Hawkins said.