by Joseph Peralta/AJPress
SAN FRANCISCO – One of the biggest annual events in the San Francisco calendar took place last weekend when the 2008 San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Celebration grabbed the spotlight in the downtown area.
I was able to catch the Gay Pride parade and walk on the festival grounds on the second day of the two-day festivities, which has become one of the most well-attended celebrations in the city during the summer.
The parade, which featured more than 160 contingents, guests and floats, certainly reflected this year’s theme of “United by Pride, Bound for Equality” as many of the contingents chose to celebrate the opportunity recently presented to same-sex couples: gay marriage.
Whether it was a lesbian couple with a “Just Married” sign on their motorbike riding with Dykes on Bikes, who opened the Gay Pride parade, or a gay couple exchanging vows on a float in front of their friends and relatives, or couples carrying placards saying “Married” or “Newly-Married,” parade participants brought home to watchers the message that they are ecstatic with the way recent events have gone, and that they are happy to be treated as equals when it comes to the issues of marriage, spousal rights and family.
The Gay Pride parade also featured the usual suspects: city officials and politicians (led by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom who is credited with getting gay marriage on track again), community groups and grassroots organizations, major corporations like Wells Fargo, Virgin America, Air New Zealand and Smirnoff, celebrity guests (Cyndi Lauper, Charo, Stuart Milk and Leslie Jordan), parade grand marshals, and contingents representing the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender communities.
Of course, what would the Gay Pride parade be without the usual scantily-clad dancers and risqué costumes worn by some parade participants. Or the colors of the gay flag reflected in the floats and outfits of the different contingents. (No, no, you won’t see those pictures here, but you can do an internet search if you want to know what I’m talking about.)
Along the sides of the parade route, I saw people genuinely enjoying the parade which featured the weird, the touching, the funny, the serious, and whathaveyou.
I also a few things. The wellprepared came in early with a battle plan: find the best spots that can offer a shade once the sun starts blazing down. The multi-taskers had their own agenda: watch a little bit or all of the parade, and head into the malls afterwards to do some shopping. And the enterprising? They hawked gay paraphernalia (beads, rainblow flags, whistles, hats), food and/or drinks, and other merchandise to the willing.
Next year, I will have to remember to come in early so I can have a better view. Otherwise, I will have to be content with trying to find open spots where people are smaller than I am so I can shoot over their heads, as was the case this year.
It was not all love though at the parade. Where one normally takes the cable car at Powell Street, the religious right and so-called “haters” had their placards up. They were largely ignored by the majority of attendees who seemed to enjoy the parade.
At the festival grounds, I came across people of all shapes and sizes, and all orientations. I was happy to see fellow Pinoys enjoying the entertainment spread throughout the grounds (one main stage, and six smaller stages), particularly in the Asian & Pacific Islander stage which featured Tita Aida, R&B/pop/jazz singer Melissa Reyes, and a few Filipino female impersonators.
Actually, the San Francisco Gay Pride Celebration, which reportedly attracts an estimated 200,000 visitors from outside the Bay Area, is not only for the LGBT group. I saw a lot of straight people at the festivities which just shows what a long way tolerance for each other has come in this day and age.
One thing is for sure – if you have reservations about seeing people who are scantily clad, then the SF Gay Pride Celebration is not your cup of tea. This goes for parents who don’t want to have their children exposed to the gay culture – at least, not until they are of age.
But if you have a Sunday to spare and want to have some fun, then attending Gay Pride can be worth it… just bring your baon, your sunblock, your chairs and an open mind.