Streets full of pride

In WeHo, L.A.’s Pride Pa­rade cel­e­brates the LGBT com­mu­nity

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Gar­rett Therolf gar­rett.therolf@la­

Vic­to­ria Vil­lalba, a 19year-old trans­gen­der woman from Phoenix, sat on the back seat of a con­vert­ible scan­ning fel­low par­tic­i­pants of the L.A. Pride Pa­rade: Boy Scouts, Epis­co­pal priests, drag queens and leather en­thu­si­asts.

“There are just no words to de­scribe the honor of be­ing part of this com­mu­nity,” she said, re­count­ing years of hard­ship that pre­ceded her trip to West Hol­ly­wood.

When she came out to her fam­ily in Mex­ico in 2011, she said, they threw her out of the house, which led her to f lee to the United States in search of po­lit­i­cal asy­lum.

Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials de­nied her re­quest and placed her in a detention cen­ter where she said she spent more than three months in soli­tary con­fine­ment, dur­ing which time her hor­mone ther­apy was in­ter­rupted. A com­mu­nity out­cry fi­nally prompted her re­lease.

“I’m ba­si­cally start­ing my life from scratch now, and no bet­ter place to start than here,” she said, wear­ing a Tshirt mark­ing her as the win­ner of a youth courage award from the foun­da­tion of Colin Hig­gins, the screen­writer of “Harold and Maude.”

Vil­lalba was one of more than 400,000 ex­pected to par­tic­i­pate in Pride events along Santa Mon­ica Boule- vard in West Hol­ly­wood over the week­end, cheer­ing at rain­bow-colored f loats, cheer­lead­ers in drag and bears in leather straps.

The an­nual cel­e­bra­tion has long served as an af­firm­ing place to dis­cuss and demon­strate in re­sponse to the vic­to­ries and dis­ap­point­ments of the gay rights move­ment — and to take part in one of the re­gion’s most rau­cous par­ties.

This year, the up­com­ing de­ci­sion by the Supreme Court on the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of gay mar­riage was one of the most prom­i­nent is­sues, along with the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay troop lead­ers, trans­gen­der rights and ac­cep­tance of all kinds.

Down the street, Este­ban Nunez, 44, a Warner Bros. em­ployee, walked along­side the f loat for Bears L.A., a char­ity that pro­motes ca­ma­raderie among big, burly gay men who don’t feel at home among the well-man­i­cured and body-sculpted.

“It’s just fun to let peo­ple know that there are all types of gay guys. I’m proud of who I am. I’m not putting my shirt on,” Nunez said.

De­spite the gains of the gay rights move­ment, he said that the sup­port he draws from Pride is still needed.

“I feel like we need it be­cause we still face dis­crim­i­na­tion,” he said. “It’s not al­ways right out in the open but it’s still there.”

As in pre­vi­ous years, celebri­ties and com­mu­nity lead­ers, in­clud­ing Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti and Epis­co­pal Bishop J. Jon Bruno, as well as the casts of “Trans­par­ent” and “Magic Mike,” sought vis­i­ble roles in the fes­tiv­i­ties.

Zooey Luna, a 13-year-old trans­gen­der girl from Downey, was one of the pa­rade’s grand mar­shals, and she said that meet­ing Chan­ning Ta­tum of “Magic Mike” was a high­light of her day.

“He told me I was beau­ti­ful just the way I am, and ev­ery­one cheered me on. I am very happy to be rep­re­sent­ing the fu­ture of Pride,” she said.

But Zooey said she was also mind­ful of the many trans­gen­der youth who com­mit­ted sui­cide over the last year, par­tic­u­larly Lee­lah Al­corn, a trans­gen­der teen from Ohio who left a note on her Tum­blr urg­ing any­one who en­coun­tered it to help “fix so­ci­ety. Please.”

“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day trans­gen­der peo­ple aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like hu­mans, with valid feel­ings and hu­man rights. Gen­der needs to be taught about in schools, the ear­lier the bet­ter,” Al­corn wrote in De­cem­ber. “My death needs to mean some­thing.”

Pho­tog raphs by Francine Orr Los An­ge­les Times

MEM­BERS of the West Hol­ly­wood Elite Cheer and En­ter­tain­ment Squad march in the L.A. Pride Pa­rade along Santa Mon­ica Boule­vard on Sun­day. More than 400,000 peo­ple were ex­pected to par­tic­i­pate.

MO­TOR­CY­CLES, f loats and ad­vo­cacy groups cel­e­brated the progress of the gay rights move­ment.

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