June 7, 2019 at 7:20 am PST | by Samson Amore
The ‘unity’ in community is Pride

(Photo courtesy of Nguyen)

Los Angeles’ LA Pride Parade is the oldest in the nation, and, some might say, the most diverse, drawing spectators from all corners of the earth, all ends of the gender, sexuality, race, nationality, wealth and age spectrum.

The event is designed to attract a diverse audience and bystanders this year will no doubt notice a cross-section of LA represented in those marching and proclaiming their pride. It’s a time of celebration, interpersonal connection, and most of all, remembrance of the trailblazing civil rights activists that came before.

But Pride can have complex emotional connections for some local queer residents.

Most residents interviewed expressed mixed feelings regarding the corporate influence at Pride, and noted that the brands that are so quick to dye their logos rainbow and proclaim allyship are largely silent regarding queer issues during the remaining 11 months of the year. Some residents are skeptical of the costs of entering the Pride Festival in West Hollywood, which have been rising over the last few years.

Still, Pride and the entire month of June remain an essential cultural touchstone and important community event for those who celebrate it and those on the periphery who come to witness. “To me, Pride Month means unity and solidarity, and that the community is here to stay and we won’t be taken advantage of,” said local resident Amy Osiason.

(Photo courtesy of Nguyen)

NAME: Norman Nguyen

AGE: 22

PRONOUNS: He/him

GENDER AND/OR SEXUAL IDENTITY: Gay, cis male

Why are you proud to be out? “I didn’t have the luxury of ever being ‘in.’ I am hypervisible. You can smell the queer from a mile away and that used to be the worst. My existence as a very feminine male was questioned every day growing up, and it’s beautiful to know that my childhood shame has evolved into wisdom and confidence straight people could only imagine having in their late 50’s. I’m beautiful, I’m loud, and I’m stupid (and) to me, that’s hot.”

What does Pride Month (and pride in LA) mean to you, and why is it important to the community?  “I’m a gay Gemini. My birthday is on June 9 and always falls on Pride Week, so it’s nice seeing people be their fullest and most authentic self when I’m celebrating my own self. Pride is about being extra, it’s about realizing who you are and what values you have. Pride is both reflective and expressive, both inward and outward. I always equate that duality with being a Gemini. The world is at balance during Pride.”

Is there anything about Pride you wish would change? “We need to make it less about the money. Businesses need to do better jobs at donating their profits during Pride Month and cities should stop charging $50 to get into a festival. If you’re a business and you want to capitalize on Pride, hire a diverse group of queer people to handle your storytelling, branding, and marketing. If you have queer talent, make sure they’re getting paid properly. But let’s keep the angry homophobic protestors though because I love a good photo opportunity…”

What’s your best/most memorable Pride experience, if you’ve attended? “At my first Pride in San Francisco, I was drunk on Svedka and saw Daniel Franzese, who played Damien from ‘Mean Girls,’ on a parade float. I was flailing and screaming, ‘she doesn’t even go here!’ He made eye contact with me and said, ‘But you go here!’ It pierced my heart in such a transcendental way no one could ever understand. Seventh grade me died. I bump into him at conventions and comedy shows now. He’s really sweet.”

(Photo courtesy of Broom)

NAME: Jay Broom

AGE: 22

PRONOUNS: They/them

GENDER AND/OR SEXUAL IDENTITY: Pansexual, nonbinary

Why are you proud to be out? “I am proud to be out because it feels incredibly liberating. As a non-binary actor being out also means that I get to work toward better representation through my roles.”

What does Pride Month (and pride in LA) mean to you, and why is it important to the community?  “Pride month is a demonstration of solidarity for the queer community. It acts as a reminder that we are here, we are active, we are loved, and we are ready to affect change.”

Is there anything about Pride you wish would change? “I think Pride has become increasingly commodified. While some major corporations do provide year-round support for queer institutions I worry that many simply use this month as an opportunity to earn social currency and profit off of performed solidarity. I wish there was a way to curtail that without losing visibility.”

What’s your best/most memorable Pride experience, if you’ve attended? “I lived in the Bay Area for a while and there truly isn’t anything like the San Francisco Pride Parade. Joyous, campy, grand, and utterly spectacular.”

(Photo courtesy of Obermeyer)

NAME: Kylie Kiyomi Obermeyer

AGE: 23

PRONOUNS: She/her

GENDER AND/OR SEXUAL IDENTITY: Queer, cis female

Why are you proud to be out? “I am proud to accept this part of myself without any hangups, to be open to all romantic/sexual possibilities for myself. I’m also proud to be a part of a community like the Angel City Derby league where, despite the majority of people being some kind of gay, everyone is truly welcomed and included.”

What does Pride Month (and pride in LA) mean to you, and why is it important to the community?  “Pride for me is about celebrating love in all of its many forms, appreciating the opportunity to freely be yourself, and wearing lots of ridiculous outfits. Pride is important because it reminds people that they are surrounded by others who accept them regardless of their sexuality. It’s a chance to spread extra love and positivity within the LGBT+ community, as well as hopefully reflect on what we can do to better support others—whether they feel comfortable voguing on a sparkly rainbow float in assless chaps or not.”

Is there anything about Pride you wish would change? “While ideally no one would ever have to be afraid to be openly gay, I wish that there wasn’t so much pressure to be out. No one should have to feel ashamed or like they’re a bad gay person for not wanting to publicize their gayness. People inhabit a million different contexts, many of which make being gay more complicated to navigate. We should respect people’s decisions to prioritize different aspects of their identity, whatever that looks like for them. Also, it’s funny and kinda cool to see gay grocery store floats in parades, but we should remain critical of the fact that lots of companies capitalize off of Pride as a hollow PR move.”

What’s your best/most memorable Pride experience, if you’ve attended? “Going to the dyke march with my girlfriend last year was really heartwarming. I usually take for granted feeling comfortable being my freaky gay self in public pretty much 24/7; walking down Santa Monica Boulevard with everyone, it really hit me how grateful I am to exist in this time and place. Also skating in the Long Beach pride parade a few weekends ago with my Angel City Derby pals! Good and goofy vibes all around.”

(Photo courtesy of Vaught)

NAME: Callie Vaught

AGE: 25

PRONOUNS: She/her

GENDER AND/OR SEXUAL IDENTITY: Queer, cis female

Why are you proud to be out? “I am proud to be out because I feel that queerness is an integral part of my identity. Culture that surrounds queerness has been extremely influential in my formative years and continues to shape who I am today.”

What does Pride Month (and pride in LA) mean to you, and why is it important to the community?  “For me, Pride is primarily about fostering community. Community is so important to humanity as a whole but as marginalized bodies, we sometimes need support in ways others haven’t. Whether that’s in queer family and friends, our community supports us in ways that sometimes our biological families don’t.”

Is there anything about Pride you wish would change? “I think that Pride has become apart of this corporate consumer monster that seems to rear its ugly head every June. Teslas painted in rainbows, rainbow colored Apple watches, and clothing lines fashioned in rainbow attire are all things that I’ve seen at Pride lately. Overall I think Pride could be more consciousness of the big brands that they endorse by putting queer folks first. I have also always felt that Pride culture is extremely cis white male dominated. As a whole, I think this is something we can all work on by putting QTPOC folx first and having hard conversations with ourselves about spaces we take up as white folks. What does it look like for white marginalized bodies to prioritize QTPOC bodies, especially in spaces like Pride? What does it look like for white folks to show up in ally ship at Pride as well as in other ways? I think these are dialogues that need to be had.”

What’s your best/most memorable Pride experience, if you’ve attended? “I think the most memorable Pride experience is last year’s Los Angeles pride where I skated with Angel City Derby. Being new to LA, I hardly knew anyone so it was really nice to be welcomed into the Derby community.”

(Photo courtesy of Osiason)

NAME: Amy Osiason

AGE: 27

PRONOUNS: She/her

GENDER AND/OR SEXUAL IDENTITY: Butch, androgynous.

Why are you proud to be out? “I’m proud to be out because my queer visibility in a public space makes others feel safer and more welcomed. Representation matters to a lot of people. I work as a queer/androgynous model on the weekends and enjoy being seen for who I am.”

What does Pride Month (and pride in LA) mean to you, and why is it important to the community?  “Pride Month means to me personally that the community is here to stay and we won’t be taken advantage of. It means unity and solidarity. It means having people to rely on during hard times, and a family to be there for when others are struggling.”

Is there anything about Pride you wish would change? “One aspect of Pride i’d like to change is corporate greed. I think many large corporations could be giving more to charity during pride month than they currently are, and as a result companies make a large profit off our community without giving enough back.”

What’s your best/most memorable Pride experience, if you’ve attended?

I would have to say my most memorable pride was 2018 LA Pride. I rode my motorcycle in a pride parade for the first time surrounded by other lesbians and queer people. I felt very seen, and very loved and surrounded by friends and people who understood me.”

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