June means many things in San Francisco—winter, asparagus-overload, summer street festivals—but most of all it means Pride. Leading up to 2011's Pride Weekend (June 25–26), we asked some of San Francisco's most beloved drag ambassadors to write on the question: "What does Pride mean to you?" We've published an essay from Heklina, host of Trannyshack and one from Cookie Dough, host of The Monster Show. This week, the scribe is Peaches Christ, the mind behind the cult film All About Evil and creator of the legendary Midnight Mass series. We'll be publishing one essay a week until Pride weekend.
In San Francisco, Pride season takes up the entire month of June and has become a gigantic, sometimes overwhelming event. It’s impossible to take it all in so I choose to enjoy my favorite parts of it year after year. There’s something for everyone for sure, and I think whether you’re trans, lesbian, bi, gay, or even straight, everyone can find a way to enjoy and celebrate Pride Season in San Francisco. It really is a celebration of the uniqueness of this city as much as it is a celebration of a particular community in the city. And even if you’re a gore loving cult-leader drag queen named after Jesus, you can still find something to be proud of. I’m actually a nice person, a real sweetheart! I swear.
As far as what Pride means to me goes, I think it’s about continuing to value our experiences and lives as a community, celebrating these experiences, and helping one another accept and love ourselves. I know it sounds cheesy but to me that’s what it all boils down to and I know that for someone struggling with their identity it can be a life-changing experience. I attended the 1993 March On Washington as a semi-closeted young person and aspiring drag queen. The experience was so wonderful, so uplifting, and so moving that it prompted me to fully come out to friends, family members, and loved ones. It also prompted me to buy a wig.
For any cynical person out there who dismisses Pride as being “tired” or “unnecessary," I’d like to point out that closeted queer kids are still killing themselves, trans folks are still the victims of hideous violent hate crimes, same-sex partners aren’t protected legally as couples in most states, and there are people all over the world raised to hate themselves for being who they really are. For me, Pride is about showing the world and ourselves that we’re here and we’re proud, and that there’s a place for us here in San Francisco no matter who you are.
As far as my favorite SF Pride traditions go, I’d have to say that the most special and touching part of the month for me is attending the Frameline Film Festival. As some of you may know, my alter-ego Joshua Grannell is a queer filmmaker and I myself have built a whole career centered around celebrating movies publicly and worshipping my film idols as Peaches. Movies are my life and I’ve now had the pleasure of attending film festivals all over the world. I truly believe that the Frameline Film Festival is the coolest, most special festival I’ve attended. There’s something so wonderful and magical about the festival that's really hard for me to put it into words. Honestly, it’s where I feel most part of a community. Seeing lines of movie-going queers a mile long wrap around the block of the Castro Theatre gives me chills. Sitting in the dark with hundreds of like-minded people, watching a bunch of queer shorts or a feature film that will never have a wide release is a very spiritual experience for me. Movie theaters are my churches, and this festival can be downright transcendent.
Some of my most favorite and cherished memories revolve around the Frameline Festival and include volunteering there back in 1996 and meeting loads of other film nerd queers. Of course I’ll never forget the World Premiere of the Trannyshack Documentary Filthy Gorgeous and the sold-out crowd. Every drag queen in San Francisco was there that night and it was magical. Also, the time the festival showcased a “Peaches Christ Retrospective” at the Castro Theatre and screened four of my short films — my parents flew in to town to attend and helped give my freaky friends and I a standing ovation. No other festival would have programmed that event, but once Frameline’s Jennifer Morris did it, we were programmed in fests across the country. Frameline is progressive. It’s alternative and it truly creates and celebrates a unique community. It’s hands-down my favorite part of Pride season. Do yourself a favor — peruse the schedule, pick out some movies and become part of this year’s fest.
Have a happy and safe Pride Season Everyone!