Toto, We’re Not In San Francisco Anymore
I stumbled on my favorite description of Silicon Valley Pride in a year-old Reddit thread. One user asked, should I travel to Silicon Valley Pride? Is it worth it?
“To be honest.” reads the top comment, “ I would choose to go to Silicon Valley Pride anytime over SF Pride which has become too… much for me.”
Yes, San Francisco’s historic, iconic Pride, like your first crush, is glorious, but larger than life. This year, the seven-stage mega festival had attendance of nearly one million people. Silicon Valley Pride has a different energy–like an evening with your crush’s quieter friend, who is actually really smart and easy to talk to and kinda funny and wow, really cute now that you think about it.
The OP Redditor, who made the drive to San Jose, agrees: “It was fun. Good music, good food, amazing people and absolutely perfect weather!”
While nobody can guarantee perfect weather, an impressive array of music, food and amazing people will come together during the Silicon Valley Pride Week community events (August 21-25) and Pride Celebration Weekend (August 26-27).
I Am What I Am: What (And Who) Pride Is
With almost 15,000 attendees during SV Pride weekend last year, the festival is by no means tiny, but is small enough to find your friends. A mix of community outreach, activism, performance and celebration is spread throughout week and weekend schedules, giving attendees several ways to participate. Many events, including the parade, are family-friendly, which is helpful if you have or are a queer kid, or are bringing the whole family. As for 21-and-up celebrations, there are plenty of great things going on that third week of August. Traditionally, Pride is open to all who are LGBTQ+ and the cis and straight people who love and support them.
But… why August? Nationally, Pride Month is celebrated in June for the anniversary of the Stonewall Resistance.
“We believe that Pride should be celebrated year-round, and we chose August for the main event because it’s the close of the summer, and to not compete with big festivals like San Francisco’s,” explains Saldy Suriben, Marketing Director of Silicon Valley Pride.
He has a point. With the dates of the two festivals on the opposite ends of the summer, one could do both.
I Will Survive: A Brief History Of Silicon Valley Pride
Silicon Valley Pride was once in June–it has gone through many changes since its inception as a march in 1975, including the name. Formerly San Jose Pride, the event and organization rebranded in 2014 as Silicon Valley Pride, Suriben says, to expand and embrace neighboring cities. In its nearly 50-year, fascinating history, this event has bounced around to and from different locations, sizes, focus and leaders. There have been quite a few notable guests, including Harvey Milk and Susan Hammer. Organizational momentum has gone up and down, endangering the celebration, which was revived largely by the efforts of the late Thaddeus Campbell, a beloved community leader who took the helm as CEO in 2014. He brought back the parade, brought it back to downtown, and re-envisioned Pride in the South Bay as not just an event, but a vibrant, all-volunteer 501(c)(3) corporation that offers events and services year-round. Currently there are ten on the Board of Directors, and anyone can volunteer.
This year’s theme is “Live Out Proud,” says CEO Nicole Altamirano, a mentee of Campbell’s. She says that living out proud is a “bold statement for the LGBTQ+ community because we have not always been afforded the possibility of living out proud. Across this nation today we are seeing that not everybody is afforded that possibility.” For people in the community to live as and be authentically who they are without persecution and bigotry speaks to the heart of what Pride is.
“It’s shocking where we are at,” she says, referring to the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, demonstrations, book bans and hate crimes that has swept the United States in the past year, even here, making the theme more timely than ever.
We Are Family: The Many Faces Of SV Pride
The idea of inclusion comes up repeatedly in my conversations with Suriben, Altamirano, and people I meet in the San Jose queer and drag communities. Silicon Valley Pride makes the effort to include families, to focus on the entire South Bay and to work closely with other organizations and businesses. Even the decision to provide year-round scheduling reflects the needs and intersectionality of the people here.
Footage from last year on OutlookVideo, a queer talk show now on the web, shows people from many cultures singing and dancing at PRIDE. People of all ages and gender identities mingled.
“Being born and raised–I feel such a connection to San Jose,” says Altimirano, “Even though we’re a smaller event compared to San Francisco, we have our own kind of vibe going on, we’re diversity and inclusion focused.” The community here is getting stronger, she adds, with SVP and other organizations, like the Billy DeFrank Center, making big strides to create a welcoming community.
“San Jose, being the tenth largest city should–and I think has the potential–to become a destination and a home for the LGBTQ+ community, just like San Francisco, but maybe a little different, with the San Jo vibes.”
While the Bay Area has been traditionally an inclusive place, says Altimirano, “There’s always more room for acceptance. It’s better than the places we see on the news that are really targeting our LGBT community. Across our nation, regardless of whether you’re in a progressive place, people could do more work on being inclusive and more diverse.”
The festival keeps growing in attendance, even during Covid, says Altamirano, who wants to carry out Campbell’s dream of growing the community and event, including someday having a ferris wheel. “I don’t know how I’ll get it, but I’m gonna,” she laughs.
I’m Coming Out: The Events Of Pride Week And Pride Weekend
Find more details at SVPride.com
Monday: Master Drag Chef
AC Hotel, Santa Clara | 6-8:30 pm
Events begin on Monday, August 21 with Master Drag Chef Showdown, a family-friendly cooking competition where two local drag queens compete for the title of Master Drag Chef.
Tuesday: Annual Pride Flag-Raising And Rainbow Lighting
San Jose City Hall | 5-6:30 pm
The annual Pride flag-raising and rainbow-lighting opening ceremony at San Jose City Hall features speeches by local LGBTQ+ community leaders and the government officials who voice support for San Jose’s LGBTQ+ community and affirm the city’s stance as a place of acceptance. A row of windows on the left of the distinctive City Hall building are lit in the colors of the rainbow.
Tuesday: Drinks And Drag Bingo
S27 Alehouse And Brewery, San Jose 21+ | 7:30-9
Come out for a fun night of drag performances, beer and bingo.
Wednesday: Hey Girl Black And Pink Dance Party
Holiday Inn, San Jose | 6-9 pm
Hey Girl, a cooperative subcommittee of SVP that produces and promotes events geared towards queer women and femme-identified individuals across the entire LGBTQ spectrum “including our non-binary and trans siblings,” came out of a desire-to get more women to come out to events, says Altamirano.
They will be throwing their annual Black & Pink Dance Party on Wednesday at the Holiday Inn in San Jose.
Thursday: Queer Night At The Movies
Pruneyard Cinemas | 6 pm
Grab your friends and head to Campbell for a night of fun and frolic by the big screen with the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Friday: Sv Pride Weekend Kickoff Party
Downtown San Jose | 7-11 pm
Plaza De Cesar Chavez, San Jose | 6-11 pm
Headliner: Robin S.
Sunday: Annual Pride Parade & Festival
Location: Plaza De Cesar Chavez, San Jose | 10:30 am-12 pm, parade | 12 pm festival
PARADE: Featuring “everything you would expect at a Pride Parade,” says Suriben (last year’s footage held the usual suspects: rainbows, roller skates, outrageous outfits, wigs, singing, dance and smiles.) Come watch along the route or go here to sign up to march.
FESTIVAL: A day of entertainment with music, food and two stages, including the Hey Girl stage.
Headliners: Adore Delano, Grant Knoche, Frenchie Davis
Don’t Stop Me Now: What To Know If You Go
(Besides bringing water, wearing sunscreen, taking the light rail and wearing comfortable shoes.)
Pride is first and foremost a resistance to systemic prejudice against LGBTQ+ people. Anyone who feels like they are part of that community, or is questioning, is welcome, as well as the cis and heterosexual people that love and support them and want to stand up for queer rights. It is not a place to question people about the legitimacy of their existence or be a jerk. The police and security will monitor the parade to keep the community safe. It’s important for allies to show up for the LGBTQ+ community at events but also to “vote for us, any time there’s a vote,” says Suriben.
Living out proud and protecting LGBT rights, Altimirano says, benefits everybody. “The LGBTQ+ community is not just one color, nationality, orientation, or ability. We encompass everybody. It’s important that we stand for all marginalized groups. You’re only as free as your most marginalized member.”