SGV Pride Honors June Commemorations, But Sticks with October Focus

Published : Friday, June 28, 2019 | 4:45 AM

Vive la différence.

San Gabriel Valley Pride started as an alternative to the bash that is West Hollywood’s annual assertion of LGBTQ rights, as something smaller and more community connected and it has remained so.

“Our event is more about community,” explained co-founder Chris Ramirez. “And one of the biggest differences is we didn’t want to ever charge people money. And we still don’t charge people. The event in West Hollywood is really more of a music festival these days anyway; they even call it ‘Gay-Chella,’” Ramirez said.

The SGV group has always favored the casual intimacy of a smaller event and, in the beginning, simple picnic was sufficiently festive.

SGV Pride was formed in 2001 by Ramirez, Margo Strik, Teresa Quinn and Aaron Saenz, who wanted to distinguish themselves from the bigger West Hollywood-based CSW organization that produces Pride Fest on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Not only is the SGV Pride more modest in scale, and free, it also takes place in October, rather than around the emblematic June date commemorating the culture-shaking Stonewall riots in New York’s Greenwich Village.

SGV Pride has taken place in September and November, but eventually the team eventually settled into an October slot.

“National Coming Out is in November and we felt we needed to take advantage of the synergies building up to that,” said Ramirez. “Now we’ve been going for 18 years.”

Indeed, the first SGV Pride picnic was set for three days after the attacks of September 11, 2001. In spite of the general mayhem at the time, the group went ahead and convened its celebration as a signal of its intended resiliency.

While plans for moving forward are on the group’s mind, that doesn’t mean the events of this June are pass unperceived.

“The reason this June was different than previous months of June is because it is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion of 1969 in Greenwich Village,” said co-founder Saenz. “So that is important.”

The milestone year for Stonewall is bolstered, he said, by good vibes coming from local Rep. Judy Chu’s (D) introduction of the PRIDE Act to iron out inequities endured by same-sex couples in the tax code.

“Also, on a media level, we’re seeing more gay characters,” he said. “We’re coming into our own though there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in the country in general.”

The model of a different, less boisterous celebration adopted by SGV Pride, if not being copied, has certainly seen duplication.

“There have been Pride events in the San Fernando Valley a Pride event in Compton,” said Ramirez. “In our community’s history, it’s significant because people are more comfortable in celebrating who they are. That’s one of the biggest changes. The smaller events are cropping up and that’s really important.”

Meantime, there are further festivities afoot.

In October, there is Pride and there’s also the “Unicorn Ball,” which Saenz said is a celebration of the center’s home in Arcadia. The group is also planning an LGBT seniors ball. When and where it’s going to be is still being worked out.

Saenz said in July there will be a celebratory “Dinner for Hope,” a vegetarian “Barbequeer,” to honor one of the volunteers who will be leaving.

“What’s different about us and about the center is we’re 100 percent volunteer,” Saenz said. “We’re launching a campaign called ‘Building Pride’ that’s going to launch July 1 and we’re basically doing a fundraising campaign to help us get a physical location all to ourselves. Where we are right now we are sharing with three other organizations so with our own place, we can better fit the needs of the San Gabriel Valley LGBTQ community.”

The plan is, Saenz said to ask people for monthly donations so the group can build the financial stability where it “has a key”  and can launch programs out of that office.

“We want to keep the center somewhere in the San Gabriel Valley,” he said. “We hope to stay in Arcadia if we can. The location should be close to transit for the seniors and for the youth, we try to make it as accessible for them as possible.”

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