Green ink on paper drawing of abstract swirls.

Gay jury duty

Marching in the San Francisco Pride parade with a corporate contingent is boring and inconvenient

by AK Krajewska

Even though I’ve lived in San Francisco for over 20 years, this year was only the second time I’ve been to the official Pride parade and the first time I marched in it. I’ve generally thought it was, roughly in order of disagreeableness:

And most importantly, I thought it was pointless. I didn’t think a loud party of sell-outs dominated by corporate contingents would do anything useful for LGBTQ+ liberation or my personal fulfillment. In short, I thought I would neither get anything out of going nor give anything of value. Pride didn’t need me and I didn’t need Pride[1].

This year felt different. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a real fucking reactionary regression happening in LGBTQ+ rights. It’s been going on for a few years, and it’s manifested most noticeably as a swathe of anti-trans laws and a virulent anti-trans moral panic. But the new anti-trans moral panic is the old anti-gay moral panic reheated and served again after being left on the counter in the danger zone for 10 years, and it’s giving me the moral vomirrhea.

For the first time, actually showing up at Pride, and in fact showing up as part of my big-ass corporate employer’s boring contingent, surrounded by people wearing corporate-branded Pride t-shirts and waving corporate-branded Pride flags seemed important. Like I wanted to metaphorically yell (but not actually yell because I don’t like yelling[2]) “We’re here! We’re queer! We’re gainfully employed and corporate has our back!”

It’s stupid that it matters. Corporate support is so milquetoast. They aren’t willing to commit to anything really radical and liberatory. They’re a fucking corporation, of course they aren’t going to support the gay anarchist agenda[3]. But when other corporations back down to bigots or aren’t willing to even take symbolic actions like having some Pride decorations, suddenly it does matter.

And when (many more) people suddenly feel like it’s cool to be homophobic and transphobic bigots in public, and it seems like it’s getting worse, and it’s actually more dangerous to be LGBTQ+ than it was 10 years ago, then, then I feel like I have to show up and show them all how many of us there are, and that you might not realize it that the boring 40something computer-toucher who talks about house finches and style guides is in fact one or more of those acronym letters. That is to say, I have to come out and I have to stay out.

Green ink on paper. Own work, 2020. Description: drawing of a teardrop like shape encircled by somewhat symmetrical swirls. Next to it are the words, "The cheese ain't real but the love that went into it is." The words are a quote from the TV show The Expanse, spoken by Amos.

So that’s why, on a perfectly nice Sunday morning when I could have been gardening or spying on house finches through my bird-o-scope, I instead laced up my boots, put sunscreen on my nose, packed some water, a first aid kit, and my employee badge, and went to stand around for two fucking hours in the Pride parade staging area with a bunch of people from work I didn’t know until it was our contingent’s turn to march. It was not clear that we would be waiting that long. I assume that the organizers give you a rough estimate but that it varies. I assume that your slot in the parade is probably some kind of lottery system, and we were towards the end. And I guess that maybe I wasn’t the only person who after years of going, ugh, Pride, I’d rather take a nap, decided well, I guess I gotta.

We were waiting around for a long time. You couldn’t wander off and go do something else because the estimate of when we’d go was not very precise. The people waiting tried to make the most of it with music and tossing a beach ball around, but I hate it when objects come at me from above and I didn’t like the music, not at that volume anyway.

It was boring, and not particularly personally fulfilling, but I had to be there for civic duty reasons. I had to be there not so much for me but for everyone else. I had to be there to show everyone who needed to know that there are a lot of us. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t fun, or even that it didn’t feel meaningful to me. It wasn’t a celebration. It was a declaration.

But I have to admit, when we finally marched, and I hoisted the big flag I brought with me and felt it unfurl in the wind, that was fun. Walking in the exact center of Market Street was fun, even if it was hard stepping on those grates over Muni stations or whatever they are. Seeing the smiling faces and hearing the cheers of people standing by the side of the route who waved at us as we passed did feel good.

Part of me thought it was a little strange, why are you cheering for us, a corporate[4] contingent that isn’t even doing anything interesting or even capable of walking in a cohesive group? I mean OK, there was an impressively large amount of us[5] from the corporation. But I realize we meant something to them. I’m not sure what, but it was something good, and I was glad I could be that symbol for them, or part of the thing that was that symbol. It felt especially good seeing the young people for whom this might be the first Pride parade, seeing the joy and hope in their faces at seeing us marching. Perhaps it was enough to just see that you could have a normal, happy life, maybe even be a little boring and be LGBTQ+.

The weirdest thing was the on-duty cops. They were wearing Mardi Gras beads and smiling beneficently at the parade. I’ve never been in a street march before where the cops looked so comfortable to be there.

Towards the end of the parade route, a bunch of crowd control structures split up the marchers and gently spit us out into the street and sidewalks. And that was it. Your gay jury duty service is concluded for the year. Save this corporate swag as proof until next year.

  1. I did need the LGBTQ+ community, but I stuck to smaller, weirder, more fringe LGBTQ+ events. I recall a memorable Dyke March where I somehow ended up right behind two red and black flag waving anarchists who twirled them around like majordomos and chanted “Fuck the police” as we marched through the Mission and people hung out of windows waving at us. It was great. (And a bunch of other events that are, in fact, exactly the kind of stuff the moral panic havers pretend to believe Pride is, and hyperventilate about when they wake in the middle of the night from their secret sex nightmares that they should just fucking own, just stop imagining what horrible things those perverts are doing and buy your own leathers, you sickos.) ↩︎

  2. And also no cussing because I couldn’t yell cuss words while marching with corporate because corporate has an actual I-shit-you-not policy against using obscene words in work situations and the code of conduct does apply while attending a corporate-sponsored Pride event, if I recall the fine print correctly. ↩︎

  3. The agenda has not yet been written because the council has not yet reached a consensus about whether the agenda should be a written document or an oral tradition, and while several manifestos have been written, no one agrees on which one to use[6]. ↩︎

  4. I realize I’m starting to sound like Murderbot talking about “the company” the way I just refuse to name the specific corporation. And like Murderbot I will continue to do so. Or not do so. Whichever one it is when I don’t name the corporation. ↩︎

  5. A few days later I found out a friend had attended the parade as a spectator and saw the contingent I marched in. He said, roughly, “There were a lot of you.” In fact, you had to sign up and there were limited spaces available. I appreciate my coworkers for showing up. I appreciate everyone who made there be so many of us. ↩︎

  6. I made this up but it’s based on real experience of trying to decide anything by consensus. ↩︎