Photo by Ariana Gastelum.
Prior to the wild festivities of Sunday’s 2017 Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade, its opening ceremony paid tribute to the victims and survivors of the Orlando nightclub shooting, reminding members of the community that, even in a crisis, love will always win.
Jewels, a recognized Long Beach drag queen, presented speakers California State Senator Ricardo Lara, Mayor Robert Garcia, Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride President Denise Newman and Brian Reagan, manager of Pulse, accompanied by Milan D’Marco, dancer and entertainer, both Orlando nightclub shooting survivors.
“Pulse was a place of love,” Reagan said during the ceremony. “It was the place in our community where we knew was a safe place, a place where we could find our friends. We could go out, dance, hang out and just enjoy. And that night, that was taken from us, and it’s taken a lot for us to be okay, share our story. It means the world to me.”
Photo by Ariana Gastelum. Ceremony attendees bow their heads to honor the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting.
Lara, who made history in 2012 by becoming the first openly gay person of color to be elected in the California State Senate, informed the audience that the act of violence occurred on Latino Night at Pulse.
“Immigrants are part of our community,” he said. “Immigrants were celebrating, salsa dancing[...] when that tragedy occurred. Let’s demonstrate that we are much better than the haters, than the people who seek to divide us, than the people who seek to vilify who we are.”
Sporting a white T-shirt with the word “Feminist” written in rainbow print across his chest, Garcia echoed Lara’s statement, adding that, now more than ever, everyone should also stand up for the rights of women, undocumented immigrants and transgender members of the community.
A few blocks away from the ceremony near the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Lindero Avenue, conservative Christians protested the event, shouting obscenities and holding signs that read, “Homo sex is sin” among other messages of hate.
As if hearing Lara’s and Garcia’s words, First Congressional Church of Long Beach (FCCLB) responded to the scene with a sign approximately 40 feet long, enough to hide the majority of the protesters and instead display the message, “Protecting our kids from hate!! FCCLB loves everyone.”
“When the moment came and we stretched the banner so that our kids wouldn’t see the lewd and hateful signs of the protesters, the crowd went wild, and I felt joy and pride in my heart,” FCCLB Senior Minister Elena Larssen said in a statement. “The protesters have a right to be present but not to spew hate on our children. Our kids can be proud of their faith, their community and their city! No matter who they are or who they love, they are loved by their church and have a right to walk proudly down Ocean [Boulevard] to celebrate their belief that all people are worthy of God’s love.”
Just before the parade kicked off, Men Alive, a gay men’s chorus based in Orange County, performed “Fight Song,” by Rachel Platten, a song they covered and shared online two days after the Orlando shooting to show their support.
“This was an amazing opportunity to be able to sing at the opening ceremony and to actually have Orlando survivors there and give tribute to them,” Men Alive Outreach Director Michael Kreuzer told the Post. “I think it’s a really important organization, and it’s really important to build bridges to make people understand that the LGBTQA community is a part of all of us. We all belong. [...]It’s important to remind ourselves that we are all human beings. This is nature. We are who we are.”
Since its first event in 1984, the Lesbian and Gay Pride festival and parade has become the third largest in the nation, attracting more than 80,000 participants to the two-day celebration, according to organizers. More than 200 groups and floats take part in the parade, representing a diverse number of religious, human service, governmental and social organizations.
This year was no different. The colorful crowd marched, biked, skated, danced and even walked on stilts down Ocean Boulevard, from Lindero Avenue to Alamitos Avenue, passing out condoms, beads, confetti, high-fives and positive vibes. Among them were Celebrity Grand Marshal Lisa Vanderpump, Political Grand Marshall Janice Hahn, Community Grand Marshall Jannay Lima, RuPaul’s Drag Race season three winner Raja and many more.
RuPaul’s Drag Race season three winner Raja waves to parade goers. Photo by Serena Au.
Additionally, members of the British government and Australian Member of State Parliament Alex Greenwich participated at Pride. Earlier this year, the Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride board voted unanimously to create a sister-pride program with Sydney, Australia’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, one of the world’s largest LGBT parades.
“We have to do our job of being loud, being proud, and I hope, as we celebrate today, we are showing a little bit of resistance today,” Garcia said. “I hope that we are standing up to the policies and the hate that’s coming out of Washington DC. I know we are here to celebrate, but do not let your guard down. Be tough, keep fighting and happy pride.”