The year is 1972 and San Francisco is hosting its first gay pride parade. There had been smaller gatherings prior — but nothing quite as notable. LGBTQ+ people were ready to claim their place in our society and there would be no turning back. Pride’s mother birthed a resistance.
The movement for LGBTQ+ equality and visibility began with queer people refusing to be ignored, abused, or forgotten any longer. Throughout the years’ Pride has been a time to affirm our lives and dignity, celebrate monumental victories, mourn tragedies, and of course to resist. 2020 will mark 50 years of the Pride Parade in San Francisco, its golden year anniversary.
I remember the first time I marched with a contingent. It was pure magic, stepping off the curb and planting my foot onto Market Street. The heavyweight of not being out to everyone in my life had finally been lifted off my back, and I felt like I had set myself free; I was floating way up high in the clouds. I smiled for the entire day.
It wouldn’t be until years later when Juanita was born that I participated in the parade in full regalia. Our little drag troupe — The Fishstix, created a float that was supported by two locally owned queer businesses — George Pet Shop and Space Gallery. Like royalty, we waived and waived (and waived, and waived) until our wrists hurt. It was a fabulous experience, and I knew I wanted to be a part of the parade every year.
And, for a few years, we did just that, teaming up with other local businesses, creating art, and celebrating Pride. I once rode on top of a taco truck like a little muneca.
It was during this time that San Francisco was being hit hard with the Dot-com bubble, and SF Pride along with most of our city became influenced by the lavish spending taking place all around us. We saw the impact of big money and corporations float down Market Street. Registration fees began to rise, our makeshift arts and craft floats were being pushed to the back — while the big donors rose to the front of the line. Those of us who were running the underground side of nightlife simply didn’t feel included, and it started to seem as though we weren’t welcome at this celebration anymore … simply pushed out by wealth.
In 2005, I was named Community Grand Marshal by SF Pride and drove down Market Street in a gorgeous vintage car flanked by the entire MORE! Family. It was truly an honor.
It was also the year that I started to produce my annual Pride event, seeking out to support some of our community’s most impactful organizations as beneficiaries. The first of those events was at Sol Luna, the bar and restaurant across the street from the Asian Art Museum. A couple of years later we moved over to Bambuddha Lounge (Chambers Eat & Drink) at the Phoenix Hotel. Where the tagline “Are you going to Juanita’s pool party” still gets used to this day — though they never let you swim. That is where my party picked up momentum and it only grew from there. One year we were at Mission Rock and at one point I split the party into two venues — Jones and Bambuddha — but eventually settled in at the Jones space.
The reason for its mounding success and popularity? Because, I had created a safe place filled with art, magic, love, and togetherness; a sensibility our queer community craves. And, giving back at the same time. To date the JM! Pride parties have raised over $600,000 for some of the city’s most impactful organizations.
It’s estimated that some million onlookers and parade participants descend upon San Francisco to celebrate Pride’s resilient spirit and diversity, each and every year. The parade has come a long way from its initial walk down Polk Street. There have been a bevy of dogmas to champion, fight for and believe in — though it’s still an uphill battle advocating for those beliefs. This year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, SF Pride will be celebrating online for two full days and will feature live and pre-recorded performances, greetings from LGBTQ+ community members, elected officials, and celebrities, speeches from leaders, drag and dance performances, DJ sets, and more!
You will be able to catch me throughout the month of June 2020 virtually at the following spots:
Friday, June 5th / Noon | The All-Day Queer Event Celebration
Monday, June 15th / 11 AM | Humphry Slocombe JM! Ice Cream Launch
Monday, June 15th /6 PM | Williams Sonoma Drag Queen Cook-Off
Thursday, June 25th / 7 PM | PrincessTV
Saturday & Sunday, June 27th & 28th | SF Pride Online Celebration
As always but especially now and in June, support your local LGBTQ+ non-profits, shop at queer-owned businesses, and extend a guiding hand to our queer youth and elders. Our community has thrived because of the previous brave generations before us, those legends planted the seeds of both love and compassion, but also strength and resilience. It’s my duty as a community leader to keep what was planted … alive. Let’s keep building the future of our community and carry on our legacy.