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Tourist in My Backyard: San Diego LGBT Pride Festival

25 Jul

As a California native and proud supporter of LGBT rights,  I can’t believe that with all the wonderful cities in my state holding annual pride festivals I had never been to one. So when my best friend Kat invited me to join her and her fabulous cousin, Austin, for the last day of San Diego’s Pride Weekend, I jumped at the chance.

I didn’t know what to expect. I’d seen festival pictures before where everyone dressed in brightly colored outlandish outfits adorned with wigs, props, fake eyelashes and glitter (think Club Kids of the 90s), so that morning I sifted through my closet and tried to find the most pride-friendly, rainbow-colored garment I could.

I settled on my usual look. I like earth tones, what can I say?

Seth Green and Macaulay Culkin in the Club Kid cult-classic “Party Monster”

I met Kat in Huntington Beach and Austin picked us up on his way from L.A. The electro-dance tunes of Britney Spears and whoever was on the latest top 40 list were bumping and Austin did interpretive dances to their lyrics the whole drive down. I was thrilled: it wasn’t even 11a.m. yet and we had a club in our car.

We decided to skip the Pride Parade and Block Party in Hillcrest and went straight to the W Hotel since Austin knew one of the people throwing the massive pool party. We grabbed our drinks at the bar downstairs and made our way through crowd to the third floor deck that floats in the middle of downtown. There were half-naked gay boys as far as the eye could see,  some in dramatic outfits and others looking like they might still be in the closet.

I was feeling overdressed in my shorts and tank top when a Speedo-wearing cutie tapped me on the shoulder as he walked by and said, “You’re the hottest bitch here.” I blushed and said thank you.  He smirked and walked away.

“I could get used to this,” I said to Kat and Austin, with a beaming smile and a boost to my ego. I reveled in how nice it was to get a compliment from a man with no ulterior motives.

The rest of the day continued in much the same fashion as each person we met greeted us with love and sincerity. Boys gushed to Kat telling her she looked like Lady Gaga and Austin innocently kissed his friends on the lips as they said goodbye.  Even as we left the W Hotel pool party and went bar hopping the theme continued and people saw past your gender or your reputation and accepted you for who you are.

Months after same-sex marriage was legalized in California in 2008, the LGBT community’s landmark victory was taken from them with the passage of Prop 8,  or Prop HATE as we refer to it, which amended the earlier decision and limited marriages between a man and a woman. Even though same-sex marriage licenses issued before Prop 8’s passage were still legally recognized,  equal rights supporters knew we’d taken ten steps backward.

Pride weekends, however, feel like a step in the right direction because they’re filled with love and acceptance. No matter who you are or who you’re into: you’re welcome. All races. All backgrounds. All genders. It was eye-opening to see so many men who might be minorities in their day-to-day lives congregating in a brotherhood that dared them to be free. Pride weekend is not about sexual preferences and “alternative” lifestyles. It’s about celebrating who you are.

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