Context: During the weekend of June 24-25th, DukeEngage San Francisco attended the Pride celebration at the Civic Center, and some of us even marched in the Pride Parade on the 25th. Over the weekend, we also spent time at the Larkin tent where the Larkin Street interns were volunteering by organizing the booths and hosting the guests. I was wholeheartedly contributing to Larkin’s party atmosphere by playing Ladder Golf and Cornhole off to the side.
To prepare for the weekend, I put on my flashiest clothes (which turned out to be just an orange shirt and some colorful socks) and drew on a rainbow arm band with body paint. Turns out that many people were dressed more normally than I was – but safe to say, I definitely would not have won best costume. We laid in the grass for a while, just taking in the scenery (and unknowingly sun-burning large swaths of my body) ((I regret skipping the sunscreen)). We explored the entire square, and then went back to the dorm to recharge with some quick Chinese food before going out to see the Castro at night. As expected, the Castro was absolutely bumping. The crowds of people were massive, rivaling in size the familiar swarms of crazed Black Friday hordes at Jersey malls. I was impressed.
Sunday was the Pride Parade itself. Already feeling the burns from the day before, I applied what I thought at the time was a good amount of sunscreen on my face. Spoiler alert: it was not enough. Besides the peeling skin, the parade gave me a pretty cool glimpse at a celebration of the LGBTQ community as well as its allies, with humans and corporations coming together to celebrate the visibility of the queer community. There was so much positivity and joy and excitement at the parade, and it was truly a sight to see.
Besides just recounting the weekend to you all, I wanted to talk about something more than just what we did. Because I couldn’t settle on one thing, I decided to share with you all the overarching thought I had over the weekend: the queer community is so complicated. Whenever I used to think about queerness, I would first think about it in a religious context. Sometimes I would think about it in a political context. But, as I took a small venture into the Pride Parade and the Castro this weekend, as well as talking about it to people during this DukeEngage so far, queerness seems to be complicated by a huge amount of factors, including but definitely not limited to issues of classism, racism, capitalism, etc. There seems to be a long history of trauma and empowerment, of struggle and success. We had a walking tour of the Castro, during which we learned some of the history of the LGBTQ community, but there seems to be so much more.
Honestly, as I’m writing this I realize how silly of a realization that was. Of course queerness isn’t a simple one-issue topic (duh!). I’m shocked that I hadn’t understood that before. Regardless, I think that this revelation has reverberated with me throughout the week post-Pride. I used to be so quick to jump to judgements, but this experience has shown me that there is a multitude of queer experiences. I can’t possibly know everything that there is to know, but it’s definitely a humbling reality check to glimpse how grand the totality of what “queer” is. To think – I believed I was prepared for the weekend by simply painting on a rainbow armband. I have a lot more to learn.