Monday, June 06, 2005

Open Letter to the GLCCU

In years passed, I have enjoyed going to Gay Pride Day and visiting with friends, enjoying the vendors and having a wonderful day with my family. We would pack a cooler with sandwiches and Diet Coke, head off to a nice shady part of the park, shop the many shops and spend a lot of money, donating and purchasing items from our LGBT community. Some of us would bring our four legged children as well, leashed and happy.

This year, the Gay Pride Committee has decided that this is no longer about us as a community - but rather us as a collective piggy bank and a bunch of children.

For the first time, an entrance fee will be charged of $5 per person for admission to the event. This money is supposed to be used for the Gay and Lesbian Community Center's activities and events. While I understand the need for an admission fee, and respect it, I am appalled at the other restrictions that have been placed on the attendees.

The major restriction this year that bothers me is this - no outside food or drinks.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that our community is diverse and one of the biggest reasons for the Center is to support the disinfrachised, at-risk youth and young adults in the community - those in major socio-economic hardship. It takes a lot for some people to come up with the admission price, let alone not being able to bring a sack lunch for themselves. So, like a lot of people, they will volunteer, then are asked to pay $4 for bottled water and $7 for a cold sandwich plate - at least if Pride is like any other "public" event in this state.

Personally, I contribute each and every paycheck to the Center, through a direct funds program through the U. I have yet to go to any other sponsored event of the Center because nothing appeals to me. I recognize it's value, so I continue to support it for the entire communities benefit. Yet, I will be charged to go to the ONE event that I do find rewarding, and then get soaked by food, beverage and other prices after I enter the gates.

Many GLBT families attend Gay Pride because they do not go to the bars or events - they are busy trying to raise a family in this state - and Pride is usually the one time they can reconnect with old friends. At $5 a head, plus food and drink, that can get really pricey for lunch in the park. Pride Day was the one event where all were treated equally. Now, the Center is looking at them only as a paying customer and not a valued member of the community.

Oh, don't forget, there are some free events. But only a few. I guess I should feel priviledged.

Someone said to me the other day, "Well, San Fran charges $35 dollars for their Pride Day." That is not true. According to, the Parade and Celebration are completely free. "Join us for two days of music, food and fun... all for FREE! No tickets are needed and no one is turned away for lack of funds." The only mention of money is a voluntary $3 per person contribution at the gate and $30 ticket if you want to sit on the Grand Stands during the Parade. The people who participate in putting on SFPride (ie: the vendors who make money off of the GLBT community) pay for the priviledge to be there. Plus, the people who do the real work, the volunteers, are given gift bags full of vendors' items as a thank you.

May I also remind the Gay Pride Committee - we are not San Francisco. Thank God for that.

I recognize that Pride takes a lot of money to put on. The admission fee alone should help offset that, along with booth space rentals by vendors, etc. There is no need to exclude people from bringing food. Oh, wait, yes there is - greed. It's not about security, no matter what anyone says. Years passed have proven that. Let's keep in mind, most of the people who put on Pride are volunteers, so no one is being paid to be there, and a great many of us who have volunteered at Pride Days in the past won't do it again because of how we've been mis-managed and treated. I am lucky that I have found a Volunteer Coordinator (Teinamarrie Nelson) who fights for the volunteers comfort and care. Not everyone does.

The other ridiculous restriction - no animals permitted, even those legally leashed. For many in our community, their pets ARE their children. Last year, we were surrounded by our four-legged friends and they behaved themselves wonderfully. Their owners cleaned up after them and all was well. The LGBT community is notoriously known for love of animals and as being responsible pet owners. Yet again, the Pride Committee is treating us like a bunch of misbehaving children.

The Center's Pride Committee has made my decision for me - My family will NOT attend Pride this year - the first time in 9 years. Instead, I will host a party at my home to celebrate my Pride - at least in my yard, there is no admission fee and everyone is welcome to bring what they wish - food or furry friend.

Maybe next year, if the Center Board actually cared about the community they serve, they would allow people to bring a picnic basket and realize that those who can afford to feed their families will buy food from the long-lined vendors, and those who can't should still be welcomed with open arms and wagging tails.

So, GLCCU, enjoy the financial contribution I make to you every two weeks. I've more than paid my admission to an event I won't be attending.


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