Last year’s Pride — San Francisco’s 50th anniversary celebration of the LGBTQ+ community — was curtailed by the pandemic and served as a moment of reflection for how far the queer community has come and how far it still has to go. Pride 2021 comes more than a year removed from the start of the pandemic, the killing of George Floyd, and in the wake of a spate of anti-Asian violence.
With the threat of COVID-19 still simmering, official SF Pride-organized events are few. But a pair of Pride-adjacent events aim to celebrate queer culture while also righting wrongs of the past.
So whether you wish to reclaim adolescence — queerness front and center— with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, or rejoice in the diversity represented within the LGBTQ+ community with Inside/OUT!, the Bay Area has a stage for you.
The word prom may bring back nostalgic memories or send shivers down the spine. Either way, Pride Prom is a do-over. And for those who never went to prom, now you have a chance — with the city’s most beloved drag queens and social justice warriors.
This Friday, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are inviting anyone over the age of 21 for a night of dancing, games, music and cafeteria-inspired bites at the Westfield San Francisco Centre from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. This time around, there’s no dress code violations or breathalyzers — in fact, there’s an open bar.
This prom is special in more ways than one, according to Sister Roma, otherwise known as “the most photographed nun in the world.”
“A lot of people of a certain age didn’t go to prom,” Roma says. “If you were gay, queer, gender non-conforming, you didn’t feel welcome, it wasn’t a safe place.”
Roma says many queer kids do feel safe going to prom and LGBTQ+ prom kings and queens aren’t unheard of. “But, this prom is special because of the time we’re in right now after the pandemic,” Roma says. “It’s also a celebration for people who were never able to actually go to a prom.”
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is a charity and protest organization that has used drag and religious imagery to bring attention to sexual intolerance through satire and eccentricity for decades.
The nunnery was born in the Castro district in 1979 on Easter Sunday when a small group of gay men dressed in traditional nun habits and were met with shock and amazement as they marched through the streets of San Francisco.
Since then, the Sisters have been using “humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.” They aim to make a statement, and they rarely disappoint.
“We started just as sort of a middle finger to society and to organized religion in 1979,” says Roma. “We’ve been fighting HIV AIDS, homophobia, drag phobia, transphobia, misogyny, and racism for over 40 years now.”
Tickets to Pride Prom are $30 and proceeds will go directly toward the Sisters’ mission. Since its inception, the organization has raised and donated over $1 million to nonprofits that serve in-need communities.
“We support all kinds of BIPOC organizations and groups,” says Roma. Recently, the organization has supported LGBTQ+ and trans homeless youth services and housing projects for low-income people living with AIDS.
“It feels so great that we’re all back out together and we feel safe enough to show up without masks. We can give real hugs and maybe we can even share a dance together at prom,” Roma said.
The inaugural Inside/OUT! Black Pride Celebration is the first of its kind in the Bay Area. In partnership with the city of Oakland and Oakland Parks, Recreation, and Youth Development, the nonprofit Oakland Black Pride is hosting four days of virtual workshops and limited-capacity events that are “grounded in Blackness, queerness, solidarity and protected by love… the way Pride started!”
June 24 to June 27 marks the first town-wide celebration of people who identify as Black and queer.
“There’s been an erasure of the architects and elders of the LGBTQ+ movement,” says Olaywa K. Austin, executive director of Oakland Black Pride. “It has been whitewashed and so has Pride. Two trans women of color, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, led the Stonewall rebellion and are mothers of the Pride movement. But today, it’s dominated by white cisgender gay men, allies, corporations, and is far removed from Stonewall. Our organization exists to ensure that Black people who deliberately claim LGBTQIA+ identities are seen, heard and fully supported by their own so that we may regain visibility in the movement that was started by us,” says Austin.
The four-day celebration kicks off with online fitness classes followed by Zoom panels that examine LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workspace and self-sustainable food systems. And for those who feel comfortable breaking bread in person, Chef Nelson German and Chef LaLa Harrison will prepare a seven-course meal at Oakland’s Sobre Mesa at 6 p.m.
At Friday’s Zoom pannel, Nina Sol, Dana Fitchett, Alyah Baker, and Lady Ryan will discuss cultivating community and advancing the revolution for both Black and queer people through music and dance. To show love to some of the bars and restaurants that support the movement, Oakland Black Pride will lead a Queer Pub Crawl at 6 p.m.
“Inside/OUT presents educational panels and community engagement activities that will provide an economic boost to our local queer and allied businesses,” explains Austin. And on June 26, it’s back to business with the all-day Queer Expo in Jingletown where local BIPOC and LGBTQ+ vendors, merchants and nonprofits will present their wares and their work.
Saturday night’s Skate for Pride is hosted by Grammy-winner Durand Bernarr, and Sunday night’s Slayers Ball at The Bridge Yard is organized in honor of social justice advocates, Johnson, and Rivera.
Pride Prom – A Pride celebration with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Friday, June 25 | 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. | $30
Westfield San Francisco Centre
865 Market Street, San Francisco, CA
Pride Prom tickets
Inside/OUT! – A Pride celebration with Oakland Black Pride
Thursday, June 24 to Sunday, June 27 | In-person and Online Events
Oakland, CA | Free – $300
Inside/OUT! Schedule and Tickets