‘It’s love here’: Campus alumni, community march in SF Pride

photo of cal student at pride parade
Eran Kohen Behar/Staff
At this year's San Francisco Pride, multiple community members from UC Berkeley as well as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory marched, commenting on developments from the Supreme Court as well as their connections to the event.

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The San Francisco Pride Parade returned Sunday after two years of pandemic cancellations and community members representing UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab, joined the march down Market Street.

Participants with the Cal Alumni Association, or CAA, started checking in at 11:00 a.m. as organizers passed out shirts, flags and signs adorned with various campus insignia. A Berkeley Lab shuttle, decorated with posters of famous LGBTQ+ researchers, led a cohort of Berkeley Lab affiliates wearing colorful lab coats and walking in rainbow order.

“Everyone showing up here today shows other individuals and hopefully kids that are watching the parade that anyone can be a scientist and anyone can look like a scientist no matter how you identify, inside or outside,” said Elle Barnes, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Lab. 

According to Billy Curtis, executive director of the Gender and Equity Resource Center, or GenEq on campus, almost 600 people registered to march with the CAA.

While down in numbers from previous parades, 115 people signed up to march with the lab’s cohort, according to Tom Gallant, a business director and organizer for Berkeley Lab.

“Everywhere, people know San Francisco (Pride) is going to be a big one,” said Nestor Demeure, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Lab.

Campus rising sophomore Adrian Antonio called Pride an opportunity to reconcile his “public identity and private identity,” emphasizing that he was happy to be officially out at Pride. Antonio also commended LGBTQ+ support on campus, but added that there is still “room to improve,” especially for queer students of color.

Paulina Nguyen, campus rising senior, echoed Antonio’s sentiment, and said that she, like others, was unaware of campus resources like GenEq in the past. However, she noted her excitement to be out at Pride after watching from the “sidelines” four years ago.

“I’m around my community in a way where I can see and be seen, and just be,” said Em Huang, GenEq director of LGBTQ+ advancement and equity. “It is just really beautiful to see how many people are hungry for community. 

Huang went on to explain how members of the LGBTQ+ community continue to face discrimination despite the progress made in the past 50 years. They emphasized that it is important attendees remember Pride’s intent to honor the history of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the U.S.

While wearing a vibrant lab coat, Maria Fernandez, a mother of a Berkeley Lab student, held a sign of Alan Turing. Known as the father of theoretical computer science, Turing was condemned by the British government for his sexuality, despite his pivotal role in academia and World War II. 

Fernandez said that it was important for people to remember that he was “not only gay,” but a man who made distinct transformations. 

Reminiscing on her life between the United States and Chile, Fernandez noted stark differences between Pride in San Francisco versus her home country. While she said there is some recognition of the community, she argued that state institutions, such as the military, still do not recognize some people based on their identity.

“There’s a lot of people marching and expressing themselves in the best way possible,” Fernandez said. “It’s love here, nobody’s doing anything wrong, so that’s why I’m happy.”

According to Huang, because of the support provided to the LGBTQ+ community in Berkeley and California, campus community members often forget that LGBTQ+ students and staff regularly experience microaggressions and bigotry.

Some community members also raised concerns about the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, and justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion calling on the court to revisit certain landmark cases, including one concerning same-sex marriages. The sentiment was captured in the phrase ‘now more than ever,’ which appeared on several banners and signs. 

“Progress is only as strong as we are; if we aren’t marching forward, we are marching backwards,” said Abbie Holt, who marched with the Berkeley Lab cohort.

Matt Brown, Riley Cooke, Kavya Gupta, Ratul Mangal and Sienna Reinders contributed to this report. 

Contact Matt Brown, Riley Cooke, Kavya Gupta, Ratul Mangal and Sienna Reinders at [email protected].