From the Stonewall riots to marriage equality, LGBT rights have experienced an amazing trajectory toward acceptance. But for activist and current OC Pride president Zackery Glass, there’s more work to be done. “The question I get asked now is, ‘Is Pride as relevant as it used to be?'” he says before answering the question: “Absolutely.”
He recalls being in the audience when the Anaheim City Council publicly recognized June as LGBT month. A couple of strangers behind him muttered their disgust. “That was two years ago,” he says. “We still need to change people’s mind on how we’re thinking about gay people.”
For Glass, part of that effort comes from putting together the annual OC Pride festival, a one-day event celebrating gay culture, LGBT rights and allies through a fun party atmosphere. Planning starts the day after the previous Pride ends; bills get paid, feedback gets received, board members are assembled, and so on. Compound that with his full-time job working as assistant to the owner of VLVT Lounge in Santa Ana, and Glass barely has time to sleep—but “the payoff is seeing it all happen.”
The affable Chapman University alum from Murrieta worked as a dancer in Disneyland shows before becoming a dance captain for Disney Cruise Lines, a role that Glass credits as helping him develop leadership qualities. While abroad, Glass was so consumed with work that he felt isolated from the major events happening back home, including the 2008 battle over Proposition 8. “It really affected me,” he says. “I felt powerless, like I wanted to do something about [Prop. 8] and I couldn’t.”
Between his first and second cruise-line contract, Glass returned home and volunteered with Equality California to collect signatures for petitions. It was there that he met other volunteers who connected him with Orange County Equality Coalition (OCEC), a new organization that, among other objectives, longed to bring back OC Pride, which had died out in 2001 after a 12-year run. For the next few years, Glass volunteered for OCEC as entertainment coordinator remotely through email correspondence while still working for the cruise line. When his last contract ended in 2012, Glass became more heavily involved with OC Pride by attending board meetings, eventually stepping into the role of president in the fall of 2014.
Today, OC Pride operates separately from OCEC as its own nonprofit. Glass plans to bring more changes to the event to make it grow, including incorporating more gay bars and venues outside of Santa Ana, keeping vendor tents united in one area for the festival, adding a parade, and starting an OC Pride week to give more visibility to local LGBT causes and issues.
The presidency will come to a close eventually, so Glass is looking ahead to other opportunities to speak out for gay rights on national and global levels. But for now, he’s just trying to find time in his busy schedule to devote to himself, his boyfriend and family, while still maintaining the kind of levity expected from an ambassador of OC Pride. “Pride is meant to be fun and freeing,” Glass says. “People should feel like they can do whatever they want.”