The 2024 West Hollywood Pride Parade has joy, inclusiveness and a thread of fear

The sun was hidden, but cheeks were out Sunday at the West Hollywood Pride Parade as go-go dancers in jockstraps and gay cowboys in skimpy leather chaps strolled down Santa Monica Boulevard.

Leading the pack was a phalanx of queer bikers ready to rev their engines down a rainbow-swathed corridor in the heart of Los Angeles’ iconic gay haven.

Katrina Vinson, a West Hollywood native, has been participating in the parade for years as the founder of Pride Riders, a collective of lesbian riders. For her, the weekend’s LGBTQ+ festivities were about highlighting inclusivity.

“WeHo especially tends to be a Boystown,” Vinson said, speaking of West Hollywood’s reputation as primarily a hot spot for affluent white gay men. “It’s really important that there is visibility for gay women and non-binary (people).”

A person wearing a black tank top and glasses is driving a motorcycle.

Pride Parade participant Katrina Vinson is the founder of the Pride Riders.

(Zoë Cranfill / Los Angeles Times)

Throughout the parade route, people waved flags representing asexual, trans or lesbian people – Mexican flags with rainbow stripes signaled pride in intersectional identities.

Local restaurants took advantage of the traffic, opening their storefronts to the sidewalk to serve drinks and meals to hungry and thirsty pedestrians and their canine companions. Other businesses used the parade as an advertising opportunity.

“Be proud of your flexibility,” read Crunch’s concise speech as he promoted the fitness franchise.

A film crew took advantage of the picturesque setting to film a scene for the biopic “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor” about former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith. Abbie Cornish, as Smith, wore an elegant silver dress and sat atop a convertible across from costar Kal Penn, who plays Smith’s doctor, Sandeep Kapoor.

Although West Hollywood Pride definitely has a commercial side, Hollywood resident Tim Armitage said he has noticed a shift in recent years toward a more local vibe, with a greater focus on nonprofit organizations. profit and services. In 2020, West Hollywood and LA Pride split, giving rise to two weekend festivals that must compete for headlines and corporate sponsorships. With two parades, neighborhood groups have more space to shine.

“It feels a lot more authentic,” said the marketing strategist, who has lived in Los Angeles for 22 years. Armitage identifies as gay and says parade organizers have broadened the scope of the event, better ensuring that communities under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella are represented. “It gets better every year.”

But it wasn’t all rainbows and fun. This year, several organizations have made strong efforts to draw attention to current political events locally and globally.

With calls for housing justice as well as a campaign for passage of the Equal Rights Act, Pride’s social justice roots have been a throughline amid the joyous celebration of the diversity.

A group of queer Indigenous people marched in traditional dress while waving a Mexican flag and prominently displaying a Palestinian flag reading “Free Palestine” on the bumper of their truck.

“We believe that the Pride Festival and the entire Pride event was in itself a protest. It was a revolt. And we are here and continuing this spirit of fighting for civil rights,” said Ozomatli Xochipilli. He added that a parade official and law enforcement almost banned them from participating in the parade because their political banner reflected their support for the Palestinians in the deadly war between Israel and Hamas.

People are seen from behind on a parade route carrying handmade signs.

Parade spectators make their political views known during Sunday’s event.

(Zoë Cranfill / Los Angeles Times)

A few dozen demonstrators dressed in kaffiyehs demonstrated on the sidelines of the parade, supervised by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies. “No pride in apartheid,” read one sign. Another said: “No queer liberation without Palestinian liberation.”

Despite the peaceful nature of the event, some parade participants expressed an underlying fear, citing political backlash affecting the transgender community. Last year, during Pride Month, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold a web designer’s right to refuse services to same-sex couples, even as states like the Florida and Tennessee were considering laws banning drag shows.

And in April, the Times reported bomb threats against the TransLatin@ Coalition, which provides services to transgender and gender nonconforming Latino communities.

But that didn’t stop TransLatin@ Coalition, marking its 15th anniversary, from also celebrating Pride in a quinceañera-themed float, where trans women in long, bejeweled dresses danced to reggaeton and cumbia .

The organization offers social services with and without bilingual assistance. Training coordinator Bee Curiel says transgender Latinos face greater discrimination as trans people face language barriers. “This just reinforces that our presence is needed and that our community members are counting on us,” Curiel said.

A pride marcher waves a fan and a trans pride flag.

A pride parade marcher waves a fan and a trans pride flag at the 2024 West Hollywood event.

(Zoë Cranfill / Los Angeles Times)

The law firm Carpenter and Zuckerman launched a playful attack on current events by hiring drag queens to represent a reimagined Supreme Court.

“Drag became a revolutionary act,” said Carlos Hernandez, a queer attorney at the firm. Hernandez said that in recent years they have become increasingly concerned about the number of transgender people seeking legal representation after being targeted by law enforcement.

Meanwhile, the law firm made its political point by driving a rainbow-colored Tesla with its Supreme Court in tow to express solidarity with its clients.

Local drag queen Mylique E. Fawcett was tasked last year with representing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. This year, Fawcett was invited back to play an orange Supreme Court justice in a rainbow pantheon of drag queen judges. Her pumpkin-inspired outfit was a provocative look with green nail polish, high stockings, ivy woven into her red wig and a judge’s gavel.

“We imagine the justice at the Supreme Court that we deserve and want,” Hernandez said.

Bumble, a pseudonym who is a first-time Pride parade participant and a high school sophomore, said she was amazed by the atmosphere of acceptance and inclusiveness.

“I love drag queens. I look up to them,” said the Bernstein High School student in Los Angeles. Some walked, others drove to the pride parade. But Bumble took the bus with his classmate Thierry, who only gave his first name for this interview. Together they held a flag filled with rainbow hearts. “I was bawling because this is such a moment for me,” Bumble added.

Even though Bumble claims to be loud and proud at her school, she says it’s harder for classmates like Thierry. Not all families accept.

“I love being here because I’ve never come out before,” said Thierry, who struggled to find a way to freely express his queer identity. “But now I can.”

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