For several years in a row, LGBT Pride was a season of unbridled joy as courts struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the ban on openly gay people serving in the military, and, ultimately, bans on same-sex marriage. It was largely coincidence, of course: The Supreme Court’s annual term ends right around the same time. But you could sense Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg smiling beatifically all the same.
Then the Orlando mass shooting happened in June of last year, and Donald Trump’s election further dampened the sense that the moral arc of the universe was bending anywhere but toward a black hole. LGBT progress quickly became steely defiance, something San Francisco Pride learned when an ill-considered tweet expressed a wait-and-see optimism about the embryonic Trump administration. In 2017, resistance is the theme, the mood, and the mode.
And while Pride weekend — for San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere — falls on the last weekend of June, other cities celebrate it at other times. This is particularly true of smaller college towns like Chico (mid-August) and humid places like Miami Beach (where it’s traditionally held in early April, so that drag queens’ lashes don’t turn to sludge before mimosa o’clock).
But it’s how Oakland does it, too. This means that, more than two months after the rainbow flags came down from S.F.’s Market Street — and two weeks before the Folsom Street Fair — this Sunday, Sept. 10, is the East Bay’s time to shine. The task is a daunting one: How do you channel the spirit of the times while throwing a party that grants no quarter to our collective despair? Well, having the Grammy-nominated R&B singer Andra Day sing “Rise Up” on the main stage with a full live band is a good start.
Less white and less cis-male than its counterpart in San Francisco, Oakland Pride strikes a different tone — a vibe the comparative absence of corporate branding only reinforces. More of a sprawling block party than a march or rally, it encompasses four stages, including a family-fun zone and a Womyn’s Stage. Jane Wiedlin, formerly of The Go-Gos, will perform with Pietro Straccia as ELETTRODOMESTICO, as will Glee’s Alex Newell and Frenchie Davis (of American Idol and The Voice fame). But the biggest coup is probably Latrice Royale, the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4 Miss Congeniality winner who recently posted a photo of a cake to Instagram with icing that read, “Get Up, Look Sickening, and Make Them Eat It.”
If your experience with large-scale LGBT public events only involves the West Bay, you’re in for a different animal altogether. Undoubtedly, sex-positivity and erotic freedom are crucial components of the queer liberation movement, but they aren’t the whole shebang, either. Let’s be honest: Penises are wonderful organs, but they have a strong tendency to take over a space and crowd out non-penis-possessors, people whose erotic attachment is toward other types of genitals, and anybody who just doesn’t need to be surrounded by a galaxy of dicks at every given second. Oakland Pride is not like that.
As is always the case with big LGBT events, Oakland Pride is open to everybody. Friendly heterosexuals are always welcome, because as every politically engaged queer person knows, allies are indispensable in getting the changes we want to see. Just smile, make a point of accepting flyers for parties you’d never think of attending, be courteous and communicative when taking photos of strangers — a rule-of-thumb that goes for everybody, really — and try not to scream yourself hoarse in a rainbow tutu.
But most of all, have a good time! This is the Bay Area, where we stand strong against Nazis and show the world how to have fun, with plus-size drag queens leading us into the future.
Oakland Pride, Sunday, Sept. 10, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., main stage at Webster and 20th streets. $10 suggested donation, with VIP tickets $75-$125; oaklandpride.org