Reflecting Pride in Long Beach
What began as a relatively small community parade more than three decades ago has evolved into one of the largest LGBT Pride celebrations not only in California, but in the entire U.S. Long Beach Pride will once again be held on Saturday and Sunday, May 17 and 18, and is expected to draw over 80,000 participants.
The event theme this year is Reflections of Pride. Chosen during a recent, international InterPride Conference (of which Long Beach is a member), the title takes into account the immense struggles and magnificent accomplishments of the global LGBT community since the early 1980s. Whether surviving the devastation of AIDS, waging the fight for marriage equality, or enjoying the gradual erosion of social animosity towards us, we have much to be proud of and celebrate.
Most of Long Beach's Pride celebration each year takes place along downtown's beautiful Shoreline Drive. The festival involving six large dance and performance areas, numerous exhibitors and food and drink vendors will be held from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. The annual parade, which the public can view for free, includes over 150 entries and will step off Ocean Boulevard at Lindero Avenue at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 18.
Among the big names set to appear on the 2014 festival's Main Stage are Destiny's Child alumna Kelly Rowland, CeCe "Finally" Peniston, sexy superstar Cazwell, and celebrity emcee/comedian Alec Mapa. 2010 Miss Nicaragua International, Indira Rojas Calderon, will also make a special appearance during the Long Beach Pride parade.
"I am thrilled to be a part of one of the world's largest gay parades,"Calderon said in a press release. "In my country, individuals and communities still face widespread discrimination as well as human rights violations based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Being in this parade is my way of breaking down barriers and standing up for all of Nicaragua."
Grand Service, Grand Marshal
In a mere two and a half years, the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach has grown from serving only a handful of youth to nearly 100 per month today. Who has made the difference? Kyle Bullock, who was hired in September, 2011 for the express purpose of developing an outreach program to LGBTQ teenagers.
Bullock is Long Beach Pride’s very worthy choice as Grand Marshal-Special Recognition in this year’s 31st annual parade, to be held on Sunday, May 18. "I was completely blown away," Bullock admitted of his selection during a recent interview. "This is a huge honor and I’m so shocked that I was selected; I was floored."
The wise-beyond-his-years Bullock moved to Long Beach from Grass Valley in northern California 10 years ago in order to attend California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). He has been at Long Beach Pride every year since he arrived. Today, the hiring of Bullock to serve as Youth Program Manager at The Center seems like a no- brainer, but it wasn’t an easy move for him at first.
"I was hired to build a program from scratch; I had a clean blank slate to create," Bullock recalls today when asked about the challenges he faced initially. "There was definite pressure to deliver and bring youth into The Center. It was daunting but I had the freedom and trust of the board of directors to really take this program where I felt it needed to go."
Today, approximately 15 youth ages 13 to 18 drop in to The Center on a daily basis. Bullock established Mentoring Youth Through Empowerment (MYTE) as a free after school program that entails adult volunteer mentors, peer connections, fun and informative workshops and social opportunities. MYTE’s most successful event each year is the Monster Ball, a dance especially for LGBTQ youth. This year’s ball welcomed 155 youth from 26 local high schools.
I asked Bullock if there has been a particularly memorable occasion when he has made a positive impact in the life of an LGBTQ teen."There are so many, where do I even begin?" was his initial reply. He continued: "The times I feel I’ve made the biggest difference is when LGBTQ teenagers come to me with absolutely no support. I’ve had to connect them with social service offices and housing or hospitals if they have absolutely no place to go. It’s been most rewarding when I’ve been the person to help them navigate these and they’ve said, ’Thank you.’ "
The youth outreach guru is especially proud of an initiative he undertook last year. In collaboration with the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD), Bullock developed An Educator’s Guide to Transgender Students. "The idea started in May of 2013," he said. "We wanted to know what educators knew about transgender students, so we developed a survey of teachers, which revealed they wanted to know more about how to support transgender students." The resultant guide is currently under review and isn’t available yet, but should be for next school year.
Alas, Bullock’s tenure at The Center will soon come to an end. He is moving to the Midwest this fall to work on his Master of Social Work degree from the University of Chicago. "I would like to obtain my Ph.D. and work primarily with LGBTQ young people," Bullock shared about his ultimate goals. "I would like especially to publish research on transgender young people, who are often forgotten by our community. I would also like to continue working in the non-profit sector. I feel this position at The Center has shown me my path."
In addition to Bullock, other grand marshals in this year’s Long Beach Pride parade include out television personality Ross Mathews, outgoing Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, the WomenShelter of Long Beach’s Giovanna Martinez and Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell. All in all, including Bullock, this is an extraordinarily deserving group of leaders truly dedicated to the needs of our
Lots to See, Lots to Do
Pride celebrations in Long Beach have grown beyond a mere two days in recent years, with a full week’s worth of anticipatory and ancillary events scheduled to take place. These include:
Ménage - An Evening of WOMEN+WINE+ART & MUSIC! A pre-Pride lesbian event which will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 10 at The Liberty Art Gallery & Performance Space. The Liberty is located at 435 Alamitos Avenue. $10 includes ex- hibits, live music, appetizers and desserts, with drinks available for purchase. Check out their facebook page for more information.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Sing-Along at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14 at the historic Art Theatre (2025 E. 4th Street). Dress up for a pre-screening costume parade hosted by drag diva Jewels and warble the classic film’s tunes with fellow audience members. General admission is $12 but only $10 for those in costume. Net proceeds benefit the Human Rights Campaign.
Rue le Cirque will be the theme of the 7th annual Pink Party beginning at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 16 at the intersection of 3rd Street and Pacific Avenue in downtown Long Beach. Last year’s event attracted more than 1500 people, making it the city’s largest pre-Pride event. Wear pink and enjoy the circus-themed setting and entertainment. This year the event is hosted by the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach with all proceeds helping further their community programs. VIP tickets are $25 and general admission tickets are $10 and may be purchased in advance at centerlb.org/pinkparty.
Long Beach’s 2nd Annual Dyke March and Rally, celebrating women and equal rights, will also take place on Friday, May 16 starting at 6:30 p.m. at Bixby Park (Broadway and Junipero). Author and activist Jeanne Cordova as well as city councilmember Suja Lowenthal will be among the inspiring speakers. An after-party will follow the march at Ambrosia Café on the corner of Broadway and Cherry Avenue.
More spiritually- or musically-inclined members of our community may want to attend Rainbow Reflections of Pride the evening of Friday, May 16 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 525 East 7th Street. Selections by LGBT composers and poets including Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Leonard Bernstein, Karen Hart and Peter Tchaikovsky will be performed beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door, with all proceeds benefiting The Center’s MYTE youth outreach program. To reserve tickets please call 562.436.4047.
Play@Maya.4 is happening once again this year on Saturday, May 17 at the Maya Hotel’s pool. With one of the best views in Long Beach this t-dance pool party has music featuring soon-to-be-announced superstar DJs, specially priced cocktails, great food catered by Hotel Maya’s restaurant Fuego, a hookah lounge by SoCal Hookahs and so much more.
Look for Poseidon on Saturday, May 17, the annual dance party extravaganza held on the decks of the historic Queen Mary, featuring superstar DJs Ryan Kenney and Wayne G (look for our interview this issue with DJ Wayne G). As the promoters say, "Cel- ebrate Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Weekend with the biggest Queen in town."For tickets and more information go to queenmary.com/poseidon.
Finally, the Shoreline Frontrunners of Long Beach will be marking their 30th anniversary the morning of Sunday, May 18 with their annual Pride Run/Walk. All are welcome to register and participate in the events, which will begin before the parade at 8 a.m. at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Junipero Avenue. Race fees, which range from $25-$40, include a T-shirt, race bib, timing chip and special swag bag. For more information and to register, visit longbeachpriderun.com.
A full schedule of events and ticket information may be accessed at longbeachpride.com