Since moving to San Francisco as a newly out young gay man more than 25 years ago, LGBT Pride weekend has always felt like a major holiday for me—a chance to celebrate with thousands of people that are a core part of my being, which, for many years, I felt too much shame to acknowledge, let alone celebrate.
In my first years of either marching in the parade or watching along the sideline every year on the last Sunday in June, two contingents stirred me most: 1) PFLAG, the group of parents and allies of LGBT people, and 2) elementary schools. The PFLAG group raised goose bumps as I watched throngs of parents march to affirm their LGBT children, an affirmation I’ve been fortunate to have from my own mother. Years before becoming a parent, the elementary schools contingent led me to see both that there were LGBT parents and that these parents were joined by straight parents who were their allies. It also led me to fantasize that I, too, might one day be a parent.
After our son, Gabriel, was born in 2010 (by the way, he was born on Pride Saturday on the eve of that year’s parade) the significance of the day didn’t lessen. When Gabriel was an infant and toddler, my partner, Gabriel, and I joined the contingent of Our Family Coalition, an LGBTQ families group. Last year, as a kindergarten family, we joined a group from the Friends School. The SFFS group was part of the large contingent of Bay Area independent schools.
Our Friends School group was a bit ragtag; we didn’t have matching T-shirts like the huge Apple contingent. But, those things didn’t make a difference to us. We were a group of parents of all orientations, along with kids of all grade levels—and some toddlers, too—and teachers and friends, celebrating our school, our families, and the day. We marched, taking turns carrying the Friends School banner, we blew our whistles and shouted with joy, we waved, we applauded, and were applauded.
The parade is a back-and-forth exchange of love and celebration like no other. Marchers are celebrating themselves as well as the spectators, and spectators are celebrating themselves as well as the marchers. It’s part political rally and part party, giving all a chance to “come out,” walk with pride, and be whoever they are, regardless of orientation.
As I marched, I had images of Harvey Milk and other political activists marching in the 1970s to celebrate gay liberation and to stand up against a statewide political initiative at the time that sought to ban lesbians and gays from being school teachers; and I had memories of myself at an earlier age daydreaming that some day I could be a parent. Our son’s memories of the day may be different from mine: he remembers being able to stand in the middle of the street with his school friends, surrounded by lots of people having one big party.
The reasons for the parade and the reasons people march have changed in some ways over the years. While once a gathering mostly for LGBT people, the parade is now a Bay Area-wide celebration involving everyone who wants to be involved, whether as a marcher or a watcher. And, yet, every year, whether it has been to celebrate coming out or being allowed the right to marry, the need to stand up and speak out remains, and it is especially present in this politically turbulent year. This year’s theme is "Celebrate Diversity: Resist regression, stand up against exclusion, demand equality." It sounds a lot like core values of the Friends School, and speaks to at least a couple of the Quaker testimonies.
Join the San Francisco Friends School in the parade on June 25. For yourself, your family, and your community, and for fun.
John Tighe and his partner, Ngu Phan, are the parents of 1st grader Gabriel Phan Tighe.