North County Pride celebrates 10th anniversaryAround the City, Latest Issue Thursday, October 26th, 2017
Under the watchphrase Together Making Strides, this year’s Pride by the Beach event marked a full decade of North County LGBT civic festivity.
It was rainbows, pink unicorns and flamingos, Venus and Mars gender symbols, American flags, Día de los Muertos skulls, colorful booth canopies, tie-dye shirts, face-painting, balloons and carnival food. It was also the participation of over 100 diverse groups, including LGBT groups from all over the county, health care providers, churches, civic organizations and vendors. Attendees got acquainted with community resources, as well as being entertained with music and educated by community speakers.
Pride Director Shannon Rose and “Rose’s Army” of volunteers and sponsors contributed their time, labor and products to make the event a success. Estimated attendance numbers have increased from 800 in 2008, to 2,500 in 2010, to 4,000 in 2013, to 7,000 in 2016.
One special section of the event was set aside for LGBT youth. This included GSA groups from Palomar and Miracosta Colleges, Carlsbad and RBU High Schools, and even Valley Middle School. Previously known as “Gay-Straight Alliances”, these student-initiated and run groups now refer to themselves as “Gender and Sexuality Alliances” (gsanetwork.org). They provide a safe place for students to discuss their issues, address bullying, hold social events and bring their presence to school activities.
This year’s Pride by the Beach was dedicated to active trans service members at nearby Camp Pendleton, who face career uncertainty in the current political climate. Local dignitaries included Oceanside Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery and City Council member Jerry Kern and Encinitas City Council member Tasha Boerner Horvath. The stage presentation was hostessed by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, described by Sister Isaac Wiener as “A 21st century order of queer nuns dedicated to the propagation of joy”. Musical entertainment was headlined by American Idol finalist David Hernandez, followed by folk-hop singer/guitarist Shea Freedom, pop/hip-hop group Girlboy, and alt mod rock group Lunden Reign. For the more musically inclined attendees, karaoke was available.
Stuart Milk was this year’s special guest speaker. He is the nephew of Harvey Milk, as well as an international human rights activist and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation (milkfoundation.org). He acknowledged the event’s solidarity with the military by noting positive LGBT-armed forces relations, which he experienced first-hand when he spoke this past summer at a U.S. military community event in Italy. Yet at the same time, he said “Two-thirds of the world lives where it’s still dark for the LGBT community”. He cited two recent examples. In Peru in 2015, gay Congressman Carlos Bruce introduced civil union legislation in congress, which was soundly rejected in committee. In India in 2013, the Delhi High Court overturned a recent decision which had declared colonial anti-gay legislation unconstitutional. This, in effect, recriminalized homosexuality. Milk spoke to some of India’s judges to try to understand this decision, and some candidly admitted that they simply didn’t know any gay or lesbian people. Milk believes the lesson is that the LGBT community needs to be more visible, as it’s easier for legislatures and courts to overlook any group that seems small, powerless or invisible.
Finally, he emphasized North County Pride’s own contribution to this visibility, saying “What you’re doing here in Oceanside matters”.
Max Disposti, director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, noted how the annual event has outgrown several venues over the past ten years. The first Pride was held at the Beach Community Center, then Betty’s Lot just south of the pier, and now its current location at the Oceanside Civic Plaza. The Resource Center was initially concerned about uncertain community support and religious community protest. But over the years, the city of Oceanside and Unitarian, Catholic, Methodist and Episcopalian Churches have become allies. Disposti acknowledged the challenges of working in North County, an area very spread out and perhaps geographically disconnected. Given that, the solution is for the LGBT community to become more visible, as “visibility creates community”. What can the average person do to create that community? Disposti says, “Ask a lot of questions. Demand the best. Get involved. Give your most”.
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