As we roll into national Pride Month, celebrating the LGBTQ-plus community seems especially poignant following a year of anti-trans legislation across the country, attempts to ban gender identity and sexual orientation from sex education, and fights in local schools and cities over rainbow flags and crosswalks. In 2023, SLO and Santa Barbara counties are hosting Pride events all June long. For this year’s annual Pride issue, Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor has event details for you; and New Times Staff Writer Adrian Rosas from the Sun’s sister paper writes about trans visibility and what local organizations are doing to lift them up.
Santa Barbara and SLO county-based LGBTQ-plus organizations host Pride events throughout June
By Taylor O’Connor
Festivals, parades, performances, and resource fairs are happening up and down the Central Coast throughout Pride Month in June.
Santa Ynez Valley Pride is hosting an event nearly every week; Santa Maria’s House of Pride and Equality makes a comeback with its first in-person Pride festival since the pandemic; and SLO County’s Central Coast Pride is hosting a burlesque and drag show, a festival, and the return of its famous Pride in the Plaza. So get a group of your friends together, dress in your most colorful gear (glitter recommended, but not required), and support the LGBTQ-plus community.
Santa Maria Pride Festival, June 10
Santa Maria-based organization House of Pride and Equality (HOPE) is hosting an in-person Pride festival for the first time in nearly three years after the pandemic halted its operations, HOPE Board President Suzette Lopez said.
“We’ve been in a time of transitioning and we are rebuilding and the board has had some changes with leadership,” she said. “We’re trying to do events people would be interested in. Some are for all ages, some are for older groups, but it’s nice to see the people that come in and make community with us.”
This year’s festival will be held on June 10 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Santa Maria Fairpark and will feature a drag show, live music, a dance tent, a photo booth, a children and youth lounge, plenty of food, a beer garden, a resource fair, and a maker’s market, Lopez said.
“At the end of the day, Pride events are a celebration of love, and that’s why we decided to make that our theme this year: Love is Love. Everyone should have the opportunity to celebrate that, and that is our main goal—to create a space where people can share some love with us,” she said.
The founding board members, Lopez said, saw a great need to grow support for Santa Maria LGBTQ-plus community members—especially those also in the Latino community—after the 2016 Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting where a gunman entered the gay nightclub, killed 49 people, and wounded 53 more.
The organization hosted its first Pride in 2017 and grew each year until the pandemic hit, halting that momentum. HOPE hosted virtual Pride in 2020, and hosted the Santa Maria Drag Show in 2021 and 2022 in honor of Pride, she added.
While HOPE is still searching for a permanent location, Lopez said the priority is to continue building community partnerships, make sure HOPE’s name is known in the community, and invite residents to join the organization.
“Right now, what we’re trying to do is get back in our lane and keep moving forward, and one of those ways is building those relationships again and [reminding] people what HOPE has done and what it will continue to do in the community,” she said.
As of May 19, HOPE was still looking for more volunteers and more vendors to participate in the makers market. Visit houseofprideandequality.org for more information.
SYV Pride Parade and Festival, June 24
While the first Santa Ynez Valley-based nonprofit dedicated to the LGBTQ-plus community is holding with its second annual Pride Parade and Festival, SYV Pride is also hosting wine tasting events, a karaoke night, a silent disco, and yoga in the park throughout June, Vice President Alyce Barrick said.
“Last year, our Pride parties/events were mainly during one week that supported our parade, and this year we’re taking on the entire month of Pride—from the 1st to the 30th,” Barrick said. “The biggest takeaway is that we are highlighting places that are queer friendly, a safe space, and inclusive.”
SYV Pride President Lauren Lastra added that they’ve been intentional with what vendors and tables they allow at the festival in Solvang as well—making sure they align with SYV Pride’s mission and support the queer community “outside of one event every month.”
“Of course it’s a huge celebration, but it also goes much deeper than that in what we’re building and creating,” Lastra said. “Really for the queer community, visibility can be a matter of life and death. To feel seen and a sense of belonging in the community can mean a lot to people.”
Earlier this year, SYV Pride supported fellow LGBTQ-plus nonprofit The Rainbow House Inc., and students in Santa Ynez Valley Union High School’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) in their separate efforts to bring more LGBTQ-plus representation to Solvang and the greater Santa Ynez Valley—which resulted in community backlash against the efforts that garnered international attention and caused the high school principal to resign.
“We did intentionally keep our parade in Solvang to have that presence, to affirm that we are here, we’re not going anywhere, and we are going to continue amplifying and lifting up the community,” Lastra said.
Lastra added that State Sen. Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara), and the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus have reached out to SYV Pride with interest in attending this year’s event and showing support in light of the turmoil.
“Since our established presence in the valley, there have been ebbs and flows … but here we are again going into Pride Month and we’ve been floored by the community outreach saying they want to partner, celebrate Pride, and be a part of this community as allies and members of the LGBTQIA-plus community,” Lastra said.
Find SYV Pride’s full event calendar and more details at syvpride.org/events.
SLO’s Central Coast Pride Festival, June 2
San Luis Obispo County has been celebrating Pride since 1997, and has continued growing since its first celebration in SLO’s Mission Plaza, said Central Coast Pride Director Laura Albers.
“It’s a place to be you and have that be totally OK, and unfortunately we don’t have enough places like that in our world,” Lastra said.
In 2022, Central Coast Pride—which is a GALA Pride and Diversity Center program—hosted its first two-and-a-half-day Pride Festival at Laguna Lake Park, steering away from its longstanding tradition at the Mission Plaza.
“Having it at Laguna Lake Park, you had to intend to come there, whereas in Mission Plaza people didn’t [have to] know what was going on and they would happen upon it. Having it in a place where people had to intend to be there created a really wonderfully safe environment for people,” she said.
As a “trial year,” Albers and her team decided to include everything Central Coast Pride’s planning committee considered doing for Pride, including a Drag and Burlesque Show at the Fremont Theater on June 2 (which is now sold out), its Pride Festival at Laguna Lake Park on June 3, and Pride in the Plaza on June 4, she said.
“Our theme this year is We Are Family. We’re doing as much as we can to promote the idea that this is family, we are family, and we have families,” Albers said. “Families come in all different configurations, but they are still humans and still Central Coast residents and still doing the things families do.”
Pride is not just about celebration, it’s also about building awareness as a historic amount of anti-LGBTQ-plus legislation has passed in states across the country in the last year—particularly targeting transgender people, she added. With this expansion of events, Lastra said she hopes LGBTQ-plus people will feel supported, and allies or “allies in training” learn something new.
“First and foremost, they are the most fun events ever; there is no party like a Pride party. No, you do not have to be identified within the LGBTQ-plus community at all,” she said. “All are welcome, and we want you to come out. They are fun places you can be you no matter who you are.”
Visit slopride.com/events for Central Coast Pride’s full calendar and more event information.
Reach Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor at [email protected].
Trans Pride Weekend honors trans individuals on the Central Coast
By Adrian Vincent Rosas
Meadow Park in San Luis Obispo is no stranger to hosting events—but on May 27, it was host to something Ila Moncreif considers to be more impactful than just another random event.
“This was a space that is welcoming to everyone,” the Tranz Central Coast board chair told the Sun. “We wanted it to be an opportunity for people—whether they be trans or allies—to reach out and get connected.”
Together with Central Coast Pride and the Gala Pride and Diversity Center, Tranz Central Coast organized Trans Pride at Park, a day dedicated to celebrating individuals who identify as trans, nonbinary, intersex, and gender-fluid. The celebration’s part of a slew of events scheduled for Pride Month on the Central Coast, and it was one way to provide a safe space and resources for what Moncreif said can be an underrepresented LGBTQ-plus group.
“People can sometimes take it for granted—and while I can only speak for myself and my experiences—the cultural environment has been hostile to trans people,” she said. “This mere act of getting together and celebrating trans people on the Central Coast is so moving and impactful.”
The event featured activities for people from all walks of life to enjoy in the company of each other with open mics, food trucks, trans-support-centered nonprofits, photo booths, and drag performances.
Moncreif said that while the focus was to celebrate, the most important parts of the event were the resources being offered in the community building at the park’s center. There, participants were able to receive health care advice—something that Moncreif told the Sun can be hard to come by due to the social stigma and cost associated with trans care.
The building also housed a clothing exchange and the opportunity to receive free haircuts courtesy of Tiger Lily Studio.
“Everything they would need or want help with we had there,” Moncreif said. “We asked ourselves as we planned the event, ‘What do trans, nonbinary, intersex folks need?’”
Like other Central Coast Pride coordinated events, this one also featured spots where people could clear their minds or escape the social buzz—like mediation meadows and wellness walkways.
“Our goal was to uplift people who feel or who have literally been left behind by our institution,” she said. “I want events like this to be important to trans folks because they deserve to be safe and feel supported in their communities.”
Trans Pride at the Park was one of three events that Moncreif helped coordinate alongside Central Coast Pride Director Laura Albers. The other two days featured a drag show at Libertine Brewing Company on May 26 and a Zoom panel on May 29 highlighting the experiences of being trans on the Central Coast.
“Trans individuals have—across U.S. history—historically been left out of discussions when it comes to celebrating LGTBQ-plus groups,” Albers said. “So rather than just having a singular ‘Trans Day of Visibility,’ we wanted to do a whole weekend to raise awareness and offer resources.”
Both Albers and Moncreif are hopeful that the event’s success will not only shed more light on the transgender community on the Central Coast but also help trans individuals feel more welcome to be out and about in their daily lives.
“To have these spaces where people can just go and be themselves is more important than I think most people realize,” Albers said. “They don’t have to be a trans person walking out at the park; they can just be a person at the park enjoying their time.”
Moncreif said that many trans individuals often struggle with day-to-day interactions with the world, so offering them an opportunity to feel normal and gain some skills or access to tools that could help them or those around them is very important.
“There is this saying in the trans community that, ‘You aren’t just coming out once, you are coming out every day of your life,’” she said. “It’s a challenge for a lot of people to navigate pronoun usage in the workspace, manage health care, or even just walk downtown.”
With the success of Trans Pride at the Park, everyone involved in planning it hopes that its impact is felt by more than just those who attended or read about it.
“All of the events—whether it’s the one we just held or future events—are open to allies,” Albers said. “Everyone who wants to come and celebrate is welcome and encouraged no matter the time or place.”
Albers and Moncreif both emphasized that no matter where they’re being held, events like Trans Pride at the Park open the door for more acceptance and dialogue across the Central Coast.
“We have talked to groups throughout SLO County and north Santa Barbara County about putting more events like this on, which will only continue with each passing day,” Moncreif said. “This is a sustainable event that has real momentum, and it is desperately needed in a county where we still have a lot to figure out and learn to accept.”
Moncreif said that acceptance and impact are what truly matter, especially at a time when government and societal forces are at odds with people in the LGBTQ-plus community.
“Celebration is resistance,” she said. “Even if that celebration just affects one person’s life, it means something, and that is more important than people can ever imagine.”
Reach Staff Writer Adrian Vincent Rosas from the Sun’s sister paper, New Times, at [email protected].