The closest thing I ever had to a Pride experience was this: my senior year in college, I was invited to a dyke march in Chapel Hill by some classmates who I guess read me as a lesbian. It was the first time I’d gone to any sort of large queer event, and despite the fact that I didn’t identify as a dyke and wasn’t sure I belonged there, I was eager to stick my nose into queer society so I decided to go. Sadly, I spent the entire time feeling lonely in a sea of mostly-unfamiliar faces; the people I did know were more acquaintances than friends and I didn’t feel comfortable explaining how awkward and out of place I felt. There were two sweet gay men who interpreted my discomfort as nervousness being out in a public place, I think, and they talked to me for a few minutes during the march and helped me feel better for a minute. Other than that, though, I just felt like I was someplace I didn’t belong and worried that everyone who saw me could clearly tell that I was an outsider. It wasn’t until maybe four years after that event that I really felt any connection to a larger queer community in my town, sadly.
I was looking forward to Pride in general and the Trans March in particular, but even as I was anticipating it I wondered if I’d have that same alienated feeling. I went with my partner and a friend, so I knew I wouldn’t be completely alone. Still, though, it’s still pretty easy to feel alone when there are just three friends in a sea of a few hundred people.
It turned out pretty well, though! I did run into several people I know at the pre-march rally in Dolores Park and during the march itself, and I also met a few folks through friends or just from wandering around. I was a little sad that I couldn’t hear what was happening on the stage for most of the event, but it was nice to chat with different groups of friends and soak up the atmosphere. I have definitely never been in such a large crowd of trans folks before! It was pretty fantastic to be surrounded by so many fellow trans people and supporters. Plus, the people-watching opportunities were most excellent. During the actual march, there didn’t seem to be many people actually watching, but as we turned onto Market Street I started to see a few clusters of onlookers cheering us on or people honking and waving as they drove by. I didn’t have a sign or chant prepared, and I actually felt a little silly at first because of that, but the important thing for me was to be a part of the larger group. I do wrestle with trans visibility in my daily life; I want to be out, but am at a point where I am having to explicitly out myself more often than I used to. I may not be able to figure out exactly what to do with my presentation that helps me read as trans or more gender-ambiguous, but I figure marching in a trans pride parade does a good job of making that point. Even the small number of people on the sidelines cheering us on made me happy; it’s rare that I encounter much support towards trans folks outside of my immediate social circle or select corners of the internet.
This past week at the trans discussion group, a couple who had come to San Francisco from Sweden for Pride mentioned that they had been disappointed by how commercialized it was. I know SF Pride is so huge that large companies take notice and want to tap into what they see as a huge sea of Gay Disposable Income, so I suppose it isn’t that surprising, although I can see how it would be frustrating. Since I didn’t actually make it to any other Pride events last weekend, I can’t speak to how commercialized any of them were, but it was really refreshing how little of that was present at the Trans March event. The were a few organizations with tables, but they were all community-focused and I didn’t see any corporate sponsors. I suppose Trans March just isn’t big or important enough in the grand scheme of Pride-related things to draw much attention, but I have to admit that I like it that way. It meant that people who approached me weren’t trying to sell me anything, but were instead reminding me that there were free chest and breast exams at the Lyon Martin booth or asking me to sign something so a gay mayoral candidate could get on the ballot.
For a first Pride event, this was pretty great, even if there were moments where I felt a little awkward or overwhelmed. I do wish I could have gone to other events over the weekend, but this was the most important to me and I’m glad I was able to make it happen. It’s easy to feel like my trans circle is small or mostly far away in North Carolina, and even if I don’t actually know all of the people I shared a park and a parade route with on Friday, I am happier knowing they all exist.