“They [the queer community] need more than a rainbow. They need support,” said Santa Clara resident and LGBTQIA+ ally Alison Pena at the City of Santa Clara’s 7th Pride flag raising ceremony outside City Hall on June 9. “Life is tough enough. Why do we have to make it even harder for people?”
A church group carried the Christian flag and sang, “Jesus Loves Me.” Abel Cardona held a “Trans Lives Matter” sign. A swag table was topped with miniature rainbow flags, fans and pins.
“It’s important to show up. It makes a difference,” said City Council Member Suds Jain, parking his bicycle. “I’m here today to say that we in Santa Clara will stand up for all people’s rights.”
Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor opened the noon ceremony. Putting City politics aside, the entire City Council sat together, united in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA+) rights.
“Today we raise the Pride flag together to symbolize the importance of diversity and equity; to recognize the struggles that people faced to bring about the change that has led us here; and to remember that the work towards equality is not done,” said Gillmor. “This flag also represents hope and displays for all to see, that the City of Santa Clara is a safe space for our LGBTQ+ community.”
Gillmor invited guests representing the queer community to make remarks.
“We are a city of inclusion and love,” said CA State District 26 Assembly Member Evan Low.
In 2023, U.S. state legislatures have introduced more than 540 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills, already setting a yearly record.
“This type of ceremony tells the greater community that their leaders support LGBTQIA+ people,” said Ken Yeager, the brave, first openly gay elected official in Santa Clara County. “We have to be visible, and we have to be vocal.”
Gabrielle Antolovich, Board President of the Billy DeFrank LGTBQ+ Community Center in San Jose, has been the official flag raiser since the City’s first ceremony in 2017.
“We welcome everyone who likes us,” Antolovich said, donning a rainbow feather boa. Antolovich explained that the center, on privately-owned property, is a safe space for the vulnerable queer community.
“We are safe there. But let’s not be naïve,” they said. “When we walk out the door, we have to have 360-degree vision to know where the daggers come from…and be ready to run.
“Walk tall as an LGBTQ+; walk tall as an ally,” Antolovich continued.
“I’m gay, and I’m proud of it,” said City Councilmember Anthony Becker.
Quoting the song “Pastime Paradise,” Becker spoke of not glorifying the past but living in a way to ensure future paradise.
So as not to steal the show, Bay Area drag queen Woo Woo Monroe spoke—and entertained—last. She wore a purple wig, purple lipstick, and multi-color caftan. People lined up to have their pictures taken with her.
Monroe, also known as San Francisco County Deputy Sheriff George Downes, teared up singing I Am What I Am from the 1978 film La Cage aux Folles. (And she wasn’t the only one.)
“…It’s my life that I want to have a little pride in, My life and it’s not a place I have to hide in. Life’s not worth a damn ‘til you can shout out, I am what I am…”
After the celebratory ceremony, Raj Chahal, Santa Clara’s first minority City Council Member, reflected on the need to learn from history.
“Social reform is not easy. People have lost their lives,” he said. “Yet we need to keep moving forward…and keep doing the right things.”
The Pride celebration in Sunnyvale continues on June 22 from 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. in a free event on Historic Murphy Avenue.