As the glitter and rainbow boa feathers are swept off Santa Monica Boulevard, it could only mean one thing: another year of LA Pride has come to a close. This year’s Pride seemed a little bit extra special since it’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which many mark as the birth of the gay rights movement. While LA Pride continues to have some problems, it really felt like whole city was celebrating in the middle of West Hollywood. In a city as sprawling and fragmented as Los Angeles, and with LGBTQ rights still under attack from every corner, this year’s LA Pride was ultimately a reminder of how far we’ve come as well as how far we still have to go.
This year’s LA Pride Festival was headlined by Paula Abdul on Friday night (which was free), Meghan Trainor on Saturday night and Years & Years on Sunday night. The last few years, LA Pride has focused on the live music portion of the festival, causing many to dub it “Gay-Chella.” While music makes the people come together, sometimes LA Pride can feel more like a music festival than, well, gay pride. It all seemed very clichéd L.A. that VIP tickets were even available. These got you access to your own bars, bathrooms and reserved area of the main stage. And if you weren’t VIP, you definitely knew it when some overzealous security guards were getting in people’s personal space (including my own) if you got too close to the area.
While the event was overall much more organized than last year, when paying ticketholders had to be turned away on Saturday night because they oversold and reached capacity, it still left me wondering if this all is the spirit that Pride is supposed to be about. If a big part of Pride is celebrating ourselves and partying together with others in our community and our allies, then isn’t “Gay-Chella” just further separating us? There really shouldn’t be any VIPs at Pride because the very point of Pride is to equalize our community and to celebrate everyone. Even the cost of the festival ($30 per day or $50 for the weekend for regular priced, non-VIP tickets) could exclude some people who can’t afford it.
And yes, many cities charge for their Pride celebrations, albeit not quite so much, but those cities are smaller and therefore have smaller LGBTQ communities, making a bigger need to charge admission. However, one of the biggest Prides in the U.S., San Francisco, is completely free and open to everyone. Surely Los Angeles should be more in line with San Francisco. And for New York City Pride, the paid portion has Grace Jones and Madonna as headliners this year. No offense to Trainor or Years & Years, but if you’re going to be one of the most expensive Pride Festivals in the country, the talent should be on par with New York’s. (Granted, it is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall so that alone may have attracted these bigger names). That being said, all the headliners put on some great sets, and Saturday night even included a surprise performance from famous RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Shangela.
Despite these flaws, at its core this year’s LA Pride was a way for our LGBTQ community to come together, and boy did we. Every year it seems that the crowd who shows up grows bigger and bigger, which may sound chaotic, but when handled with better care than in previous years, this is ultimately something that should be celebrated. And when you have conservatives in Boston throwing a “straight pride” parade and neo-Nazis showing up with a police escort at Detroit’s Pride, all in all I’d say LA Pride was a massive success in comparison.
As the Trump administration bans trans soldiers from serving, LA Pride highlighted how many trans deaths there has already been this year. When Russia censors the film about a famous gay musician (Rocketman), LA Pride features LGBTQ musicians on its main stage. When the government is separating families fleeing Latin America, LA Pride features a Selena cover band. When Trump issues an edict (after his Pride tweet) that his U.S. embassies can’t fly Pride flags this month, Pride flags of all kind were flown proudly at LA Pride, from the rainbow to the trans flag to rainbow-colored Mexico flags. The parade featured everyone from corporations to the metro, from politicians to drag queens — it was definitely all colors of the rainbow.
Ultimately, even though LA Pride needs to work a bit harder on its inclusivity, it was still a safe space for what seemed like the entire city to come together and celebrate the LGBTQ community. As the popular meme going around the Internet in response to “straight pride” says, “Gay Pride was not born of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn’t a straight pride movement, be thankful you don’t need one.”