The 41st annual PRIDE celebration will kick off on June 7 in downtown Santa Cruz. Forty-nine contingents of activists, artists, performers and allies plan to march to their own beat in the largest pride celebration on the Central Coast.
In light of this year’s theme, “Transitioning, Transcending and Transforming,” PRIDE coordinator Dina Izzo shared that organizers wanted “to change the footprint of the event from linear to circular.”
The parade will begin at the Town Clock at 11 a.m., continue up Pacific Avenue and circle around to the parking lot behind the University Town Center on Cedar Street.
Westside Planned Parenthood duo Jennifer Hastings and Alejandra Santiago will be honored as this year’s grand marshals for their impact on the LGBTQ+ community by providing culturally competent and safe health care services to folks in Santa Cruz.
“There has been a true and serious need for comprehensive and competent health care for folks going through transition,” Izzo said. “Without comprehensive and compassionate care, trans people are in danger.”
Hastings, who started Transgender Health Services at the Westside Planned Parenthood in 2005, works to expand access to services for trans and queer youth. Izzo noted the importance of getting more health care providers and healers to understand the health care needs of people going through transition.
Findings from Injustice At Every Turn, a report on the national transgender discrimination survey, shows that transgender and gender-nonconforming people often face discrimination when accessing health care. Folks of color have a greater risk for poor health outcomes.
Of the sample size, 19 percent reported being refused care due to their transgender or gender non-conforming status, and 28 percent have been harassed in medical settings. Fifty percent of participants said they’ve had to educate their medical providers about transgender care.
Alejandra Santiago is a medical assistant at Westside Planned Parenthood. As a transgender activist, Santiago advocates for a safer and more accepting culture that allows for people to be themselves.
“I was about four when I noticed that I was different,” Santiago shared in a video interview for the Queer Youth Leadership Awards, “I started transitioning at age 30. I was just so sad that it took me that long, and I just want to be sure that other people coming after me can have a better chance to be happy at a sooner time.” It is for these reasons that Santiago supports folks through transition in her work.
Among the voices at this year’s parade are the ecosexuals, who are taking on PRIDE as a group for the first time. They are working to bring visibility to environmental issues, such as the drought. The ecosexual movement seeks to shift from earth as mother to earth as lover as a strategy to inspire people to take part in their environmental campaign.
Led by UC Santa Cruz art professor Beth Stevens and artist Annie Sprinkle, the ecosexual contingent wouldn’t be complete without UCSC students and fellow community members who are making a contemporary performance art piece about water coming to life.
“It turns out there is no queer environmental movement that we found. People care about the environment, but there is no doorway in,” Sprinkle said. At the Santa Cruz and San Francisco pride celebrations, the ecosexual contingent is officially adding ‘E’ to LGBTQII.
“Some of the environmental groups are very heteronormative. We want to make one with drag queens, crazy students, hookers and strippers and where queer people feel welcome and needed,” Sprinkle said.
A Facebook post from the UCSC Queer Trans Coalition titled “Pride is Selective Indoctrination” expresses how the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a rebellion led by drag queens, trans women and transsexuals against the violent police state, was the precursor to the pride and gay liberation movements in 1970.
Forty-five years later, the pride movement is very different from when it began. To one UCSC student, Rose, the structural changes to the movement overlook its origins and original purpose, giving pride a new meaning.
“Pride is the prime example of how capitalism profits off of mainstream queer culture,” Rose said. “[It] resells it and profits off its consumption by straight people primarily. It’s at the expense of everyone who is not privileged in that regard.”
For Rose, growing umbrella terms like “LGBTQQIP2SAA” is an act of violence because it “is often at the expense of more marginalized peoples swept under the term “queer,” an identity rendered invisible by the greater movement.
“It begs the question: What is queer? The fact that we group trans with lesbian, gay and bi is a problem in itself,” Rose said. “The fact that people talk about trans issues as if they magically rose out of gay struggles is incredibly false because trans issues have been around as long as and if not longer than gay rights.”