Christopher Street West/L.A. Pride President Rodney Scott thinks roughly 400,000 people attended L.A. Pride last weekend. The fire marshals report this was the largest parade crowd they have ever seen. Additionally, there was a considerable diversity with people of all ages and ethnicities, clusters of groups and families, straight and LGBT. “I’m thrilled, honored and humbled,” said Scott, “and I was so moved.”
Additionally, there were new groups. “Bank of American showed up in a big way,” said Scott. “The employees said, ‘We want to be part of this,’ not the corporation. ‘We want people to know we work here.”
While the huge contingents were hard to miss, there might have been some contingents and moments you might have missed. For instance, this year’s Moment of Silence at noon was dedicated to beloved straight ally Lt. James “Jimmy” Farrell of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department. Farrell, who passed away on May 23 from leukemia, had managed Special Events in the city.
But riding in our midst was a true hero of the international fight for LGBTI rights, Julius Kaggwa of Uganda, who has been fighting the “Kill the Gays” bill since 2010. He’s in the U.S. as part of his work with the American Jewish World Service. He is also attending the Trans-Health Conference in Philadelphia. It is also the 45th anniversary of the Metropolitan Community Church!
This year’s biggest expression of marriage equality featured straight ally Gloria Allred in a bridal gown with a drag queen friend—also in a bridal gown—as well as maids of honor and a cute little flower girl leading the way. While trans 11-year-old Zoey was honored with the Outstanding Youth Leader Award and more than 300 young people turned out for the GSA Network contingent!
Every year the wave of PFLAG chapters from around California bring tears to the eyes of parade watchers, especially those with difficult family relationships. This year, the PFLAG contingent was lead by a banner that remembered PFLAG founding member Jeanne Manford, who died last January at the age of 92.
And every year for too many years we’ve seen wave upon wave of contingents representing HIV/AIDS organizations. AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AIDS Project Los Angeles and the riders just back from their 7-day AIDS/LifeCyle ride benefiting the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation always catch our eye. But this year there was a small group from Saddle Up L.A., a July 13 trail ride event to benefit The Life Group L.A. Just as the returning AIDS/LifeCycle ride ends with the “riderless bike,” this group featured a rider-less horse, the traditional way to honor a fallen soldier.
And while some might think L.A. Pride is only about drinking and cruising, a number of contingents catered to thinking people, too—such as publicizing the need for immigration reform that includes LGBT people, families and binational couples—as illustrated by longtime API Equality leader Marshall Wong carrying the sign “Immigration Reform = Family Reunification.”
This year there were more messages and moments than could fit into a short little blog post, and that’s a very good thing.