In 1970, when Los Angeles hosted one of the country’s first Pride parades,?gay sex was still illegal in the state of California.?Nearly every year since, a vibrant community has come together in West Hollywood Park to protest injustice and celebrate diversity. Now in its 48th iteration, L.A. Pride enjoys big corporate sponsors, celebrity sightings, and blockbuster performances (see this year’s surprise appearance from Christina Aguilera, who took the stage with a cadre of drag queens on backup). The event has grown to sell-out crowds of tens of thousands, and expanded its representation of the growing LGBTQ+ identity spectrum, but the original goal of creating public awareness and expressing individuality remains intact. In fact, the strong undercurrent of advocacy was as present this year as self-fashioned accessories, holographic hair, and prismatic makeup.
Even at first glance, the scope of age, race, gender, and sexuality at LA Pride is striking. A millennial gay couple comments on how they studied the New York underground scene of the 1980s and modeled their look and their personal life accordingly. A Gen X lesbian eagerly learns new vocabulary from a 20-something queer boi. A straight ally mingles with a post-op shirtless trans man who is waiting in line at a nearby tent behind five drag queens. A cisgender male pianist?shuffles into line with the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles before taking the stage. Everyone here seems to be genuinely proud of everyone else. The kindness on display can be overwhelming and infectious; it’s why people come back year after year.
In front of an airbrushed rainbow backdrop, meant to conjure county fair T-shirts, mall kiosk posters, and boardwalks—public places of respite and fun—Pride paradegoers fearlessly stare down director Quinn Wilson’s camera lens, strike a pose, and discuss the intersection of their style and sexual identity. What’s evident in each portrait is a sense of personal liberty and comfort with one’s authentic self. No one is hiding from anything, no one is afraid. Newcomers and veterans may have different stories and identity complexities, but all people come to Pride to be free.