.Community shows its pride

Hundreds attend annual event

Elaine Johnson was 15 before she realized that the “aunt” who lived with her grandmother was actually her grandmother’s partner of four decades.

In those days, LGBTQ largely had to live in the shadows, lest they draw scorn from a society not yet evolved enough to accept them.

Now, with a widespread societal acceptance of people’s sexual preferences and identities, events like the Pride parade are held across the U.S.

Johnson, who is Executive Director for Housing Santa Cruz County and is active in several areas of the county, served as grand Marshal for this year’s Santa Cruz Pride parade, which took place Sunday in Santa Cruz.

“I know that, me being the Grand Marshall, they would be so proud,” she said. “So I’m standing on their shoulders today.”

Kaden Lee, 9, who attends Green Acres Elementary wanted to march in the parade, but an ankle fracture sidelined those hopes. Not to be deterred, Kaden and her mother hired a pedi-cab festooned with rainbow fringe.

Kaden Lee, right, with her mother Shelia McNeese (Todd Guild/The Pajaronian)

“I think everyone should accept the people who they are,” Kaden said. “It’s a good day because it’s Pride and every day is pride.”

Hundreds of people lined Pacific Avenue to watch the festivities, which included costumes from run-of-the-mill street wear to elaborate, rainbow-covered fabulosity. 

Two parade participants danced along the route, handing out stichers that said, “You’re Beautiful.”

This included Sandy Rosen and Cobra Teal, who in flowing, flowered purple finery called themselves “The Radical Fairies.”

Sandy Rosen, left, and Cobra Teal—otherwise known as The Radical Fairies—were among the parade participants.

In addition, several elected officials joined the parade.

If elected in November to the Fifth District seat on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, Monica Martinez would be the first  openly LGBTQ supervisor in the history of the county.

“So I’m working really hard to break that glass ceiling,” she said. 

“I’m here celebrating the diversity of our community,” Martinez said. “Inclusion and equity is a pillar of my campaign as a candidate for county supervisor.”

Adam Spickler, who is the first transgender man to serve on the Cabrillo College Board of Directors, also joined the parade, representing the college.

“The more visible we remain, the more we continue to send the message that love and identity matter, and should be celebrated everywhere,” he said. 

(Photo by Todd Guild/The Pajaronian)

Joelle Mulligan, who works at Joby Aviation, came with her family, including her 4-year-old and 2-year-old kids. 

“We have two young kids, and it’s important that they learn about loving everybody and accepting everybody,” she said. “There’s this whole thing right now where we need to walk the walk in terms of showing up for everybody.”

Emerick Panda drove from San Jose to attend the event.

“I’m here just to represent,” he said. “There are other places where people can’t be out in public, and this shows them that they can be who they want.”

Bria Nathan from Santa Cruz said she was there to celebrate, but also to send a message in a time of increasing acts of violence against black and transgender people.

“So all the conservatives and right-wingers don’t think they can scare us away from anything,” she said. 

Standing nearby, Jett Bartolo agreed.

“We want to represent all of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer alphabet gang, and just show our pride and celebrate,” she said.


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