“Follow the confetti!” a young OC Pride festivalgoer excitedly said, as he and his friends headed up 4th Street in Downtown Santa Ana toward the starting point of the annual Pride parade. It was an early Saturday morning, but there was already a sizable number of people sitting and patiently waiting for the parade to start. And while the morning weather was cloudy, the volume of rainbow, Transgender Pride and other flags and colorfully dressed citizens made up for the lack of sunniness.
On this, the day of the 29th annual OC Pride Festival, whose theme this year was brightly branded as “Be You,” the sights of LGBTQ+ folk of all ages—from white-haired grandpas to apple-cheeked young’uns—is a far cry from the first ever OC Pride event that took place in Santa Ana in September 1989. Called the Orange County Cultural Pride Festival (the title intentionally made vague to dispel potential protests and to not dissuade vendors from participating), that event was still very much a battle for Orange County-based gays, lesbians and others on the gender spectrum to fully and freely be themselves, let alone hold an event that acknowledged their existence.
That day, festivalgoers saw crowds, many of them families, hold picket signs, throw dirty diapers on them, leave nails on the path of their motorcade, and other hostile actions. On this overcast Saturday morning, only one picketer was seen, vastly outnumbered by revelers.
The tide has undoubtedly turned for LGBTQ+ folk at large, but a quick glance at current events points to more struggle: It was only two years ago that the Pulse nightclub shooting happened in Orlando, Florida, and no administrative action has happened to change or prevent further shootings; trans folk still turn up dead in large numbers, or in ICE custody; the White House has even scrapped its LGBT page from its website.
In the face of turbulent times, Pride events are global spaces for self-celebration. They’re an escape from the present, a celebration for the rights LGBT people have won, and a glimpse of the future. As queer scholar José Esteban Muñoz wrote in his book, Cruising Utopia, “The future is queerness’ domain . . . Queerness is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world.”
It may take longer than we expect to reach a better world, but as being present at a Pride event shows, the wellspring of action within LGBT+ people and allies runs deep. So, then, we’ll march, dance and fight on together so that future generations can follow the confetti that leads to their utopia.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers the Orange County DIY music scene, film, arts, Latino culture and currently pens the long-running column Trendzilla. Born, raised, and based in Santa Ana, she loves bad movies, punk shows, raising her plants, eating tacos, Selena, and puns.