Will L.A. Pride, the gay pride event that's held in West Hollywood every year, really change?
That's the big question now that Christopher Street West President Rodney Scott has stepped down and been replaced by two CSW board members, Patti DiLuigi and Steve Ganzell.
Christopher Street West produces L.A. Pride and has been the focus of increasing criticism over the years for everything from uninspired leadership to putting on an event that's more interested in selling the wares of corporate sponsors than showcasing the important gay issues of the day. As longtime board members, DiLuigi and Ganzell have been a part of that uninspired leadership.
This past year has been a rough one for CSW and Rodney Scott. Days before 2013 L.A. Pride, we wrote a column titled "Is L.A. Gay Pride an Outdated, Adolescent Mess?" The piece caused a national stir on the gay blogosphere, with people going back and forth on whether L.A. Pride had turned into an irrelevant dud.
Other gay folks in L.A. started talking about organizing a completely different pride event in downtown or Silver Lake, with less emphasis on corporate sponsorship and more emphasis on gay rights and issues.
So what will new CSW co-presidents DiLuigi and Ganzell do to shake things up, if anything?
Quite honestly, we're not getting our hopes up, although we'd like to be pleasantly surprised and see CSW get back to basics and remember that L.A. Pride started as a no-frills protest march that also helped increase the visibility of gay folks in L.A.
In fact, why not do exactly that?
Just create a sign-up sheet for people who want to march, set a time and date, and start walking with all the banners and floats and whatnot. Forget all the expensive high-production stuff, the celebrity grand marshall, and other non-sense, and march down Santa Monica Boulevard with an actual theme, message, and purpose.
Then if folks want to party, they can spend their dough at bars in Boystown or other local establishments.
End of story.
No more $20 tickets for access into the L.A. Pride festival after the march, and no more booths for corporate sponsors -- if they're sincere about supporting gay folks, they'll understand.
And if you need a grand marshall, pick a grassroots gay rights organizer or a transgender activist or anyone who's doing real work in the LGBT community and needs publicity for his or her cause.
Looking for annual themes?
Well, HIV/AIDS hasn't gone away. Transgender folks continue to face discrimination. People are coming out of the closet younger and younger but don't always have the support system they need to deal with bullying and whacked out parents.
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Also, LGBT seniors need more assistance in a variety of ways. Gay rights laws on the books in California need better enforcement, especially for gay folks in rural areas. And chronic health problems among LGBTs need to be better addressed -- we love the recent marriage equality successes, but it's not all about that, by the way.
So there you go. It seems pretty simple. But what will longtime CSW board members DiLuigi and Ganzell do? We'll find out soon enough.
Patrick Range McDonald is a contributing writer to L.A. Weekly.