SF Pride kicks off amidst pandemic and political challenges

The pink triangle was illuminated on Twin Peaks Wednesday night for the 27th year, as an official kickoff to San Francisco's pride month. 

The one-acre triangle is now illuminated by 2,700 pink LED lights, but the tradition dates back to 1996 when Patrick Carney created the triangle from pink canvas with hundreds of volunteers. 

"In so many countries in the world, it's a criminal act just based on who you love," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who joined Mayor London Breed to brave the cold and wind for the ceremony Wednesday night. 

Throughout the city, rainbow flags were out, lining Market Street and colorful banners brightened up buildings preparing for the return of Pride festivities. 

Transgender activist Honey Mahogany will serve as an official host on stage at the parade.

 "I am super excited about Pride. This is the first time in I think two years that we've been able to gather together," Mahogany said. 

But the pandemic and politics are threatening to make this year's Pride more complicated and conflicted than past celebrations.

At city hall Wednesday, artist Anthony O'Donnell said he was conflicted being in a gathering without a mask. He was among the artists featured in an LGBTQ exhibit at Supervisor Rafael Mandelman's office.

"It feels a little bit more complicated. I feel like I can't fully relax," said O'Donnell who goes by his artist name Anton, "Things are opening up and people are celebrating more, but there's still like, a bit of tension in the air.

His photo of two men kissing, he feels, is a sign of the times.

"There's tension in the kiss, and it's reflective of what's going on. The state of things," said O'Donnell. The emergence of monkeypox and uptick in COVID-19 cases is coming just as Pride celebrations begin.

 "I think people just have to stay safe and if they're not vaccinated wear a mask to keep people safe around them," said Issac Morrow of Stockton. 

"I'm not worried about it. I'm vaccinated. But it's better to be safe so I guess wear your mask if you want to," said Alonso Cortes of Modesto.

Suzanne Ford, interim executive director of SF Pride, says health and safety will be a top priority.

"We will have people testing at the event. We will have people passing out masks. We will have people passing out information about monkeypox and other issues," said Suzanne Ford, Interim Executive Director of SF Pride.

Political divisions also are threatening to cast a shadow over celebrations.

On Wednesday, the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance released a statement calling on SF Pride's Board to reverse its decision to ban police from wearing uniforms in the Pride parade.

Mayor London Breed said last week she won't attend the parade unless the officers can march in uniform.

In protest against the mayor, the Leather and LGBTQ cultural district, along with the Castro and transgender districts said they won't attend the city's official flag-raising ceremony Thursday.

"There needs to be much more coming together in San Francisco. I think we have been so fraught, so politically divided lately," said Mahogany.

Some people say with so many national laws targeting LGBTQ people, San Francisco needs to come together.

"We need to focus on the discussions within our community because we need to be unified to fight these larger issues," said Ford, "I think all families have some disagreements, and obviously we've had a disagreement, but I hope that we can all come together. San Francisco Pride is vital to the city, and it's recovery and the queer community."