By Isabella Cook
In Marin County and the Bay Area, Pride Month is a time to hoist high the rainbow flag, march in San Francisco’s Pride Parade, attend picnics and workshops, and celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the community.
Pride Month is a national, month-long celebration in June of LGBTQ+ people, both across the United States and within individual communities. It began in 1969 to honor the Stonewall Riots, which marked the start of the movement to outlaw discriminatory laws and practices against LGBTQ+ Americans. Since its inception, Pride Month has transformed into a month of awareness, acknowledgment and celebration of the LGBTQ+ people on both the grand and small scale.
“Pride Month is a great point to consider how to better support the community by looking at the policies, training of staff and by being more visibly supportive with symbols like Pride flags—they mean a lot to the community,” said Adrian Shanker, executive director at The Spahr Center.
The Spahr Center is Marin County’s only non-profit community agency devoted to serving, supporting and empowering the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and everyone in the county living with and affected by HIV. Guided by their mission, their board of directors, staff, volunteers, supporters and donors work together to achieve their vision of Marin as a healthy, inclusive community where every person lives with freedom and equality.
“We do direct outreach for our youth programs in a number of the school districts and provide training for school staff,” explained Shanker. “To support youth, we also support the parents and grandparents of transgender kids to help ensure transgender youth in Marin are accepted at home. One of the biggest challenges for LGBTQ+ youth is when they don’t feel supported by their family and can’t live their authentic lives. We really want to support the youth and their families.”
Along the same line is The Marin Flag Project, a youth-run LGBQT+ advocacy group that aims to increase the number of Pride flags displayed in Marin County to show support for the community’s LGBTQ+ youth. The group sends out flyers and Pride flags to local organizations and businesses to encourage outward endorsement.
“Essentially what the Marin Flag Project is doing is we’re trying to increase the number of Pride flags in Marin to increase overt support for LGBTQ+ youth,” said Carolina Goodrich, founder of the Marin Flag Project and a junior at Redwood High School. “People assume the community is inherently supporting of queer youth, but we slowly realized it’s not as accepting as it should be.
In 2020, I put up a flag on a bridge that overpasses Sir Frances Drake Boulevard and it got ripped down. I replaced the flag and it was ripped down again. I ended up having to replace it five times. So now, I’m trying to get flags up in businesses and organizations. I’ve sent packets out to all the schools in Marin, to places of worship and to youth-centric organizations. I have realized that if I reach out to public places and property, it does spark a lot of debate, which doesn’t get back to the main point of supporting queer youth.”
The best way to stay active in supporting the LGBQT+ community through ally-ship is by listening to and learning from advocating members of the group. Take advantage of educational resources and show overt outward support for the cause as a collective community. Pride Month is about listening to and celebrating the voices of a group that has fought hard to be recognized and accepted for their inherent identities.
“The reception to the Marin Flag Project has been really positive so far,” said Goodrich. “Last year had a little more pushback, but so far this year I’ve had a lot of support. I sent out 1,000 flyers to schools and organizations in Marin. When I send them out proactively, there’s a great response. I think the reception of the Marin Flag Project overall has been very positive. A lot of the time, older queer people say that they wish they had something like this when they were younger. The flag project is a social movement and a passion project of mine. When I see something is wrong, I want to find a solution for it. So this was a great way for me to tie this in with my own identity as a gay woman. I’ve grown up here in Marin since I was five, and I would rarely see Pride flags—I always got so excited when I saw one. Talking with my friends, all of us seem to get really excited when we see Pride flags. If I see one, I immediately feel more at home and welcome there, and that’s something that’s pretty universal.”
The local community is hosting a number of Pride Month events, starting with the Novato City Hall Pride flag raising on June 1. San Anselmo will hold their flag raising on June 4, and the Marin County Board of Supervisors on June 10. There is also an LGBQT+ senior picnic on June 11, and the Spahr Center will soon announce a Pride picnic set to happen later this summer.
“There are lots of ways for people to engage however they want in Pride Month: to donate, attend a flag-raising, march in Pride and do small simple things in their lives and support the LGBTQ+ people in their lives, including encouraging their workplaces to be more visible during Pride Month,” explained Shanker.
Living in the Bay Area offers so many amazing opportunities, including easy access to San Francisco and all of its Pride-themed events. Festivals, parades and celebrations of all sorts for the LGBTQ+ community are just a short drive, bus or ferry ride away.
“Flying a flag is only the first step,” explained Goodrich. “It’s a great first step to show your support, but there are more steps, like donating to the Sparh Center or the Trevor Project. My project is a baseline, and then you take it and do what you want with it from there.”
“Pride Month, like Earth Day, is something we should celebrate all year long,” concluded Shanker.
The Spahr Center is located at 150 Nellen Ave, Suite 100 in Corte Madera. They may be contacted by phone at 415.457.2487 or by sending an email to [email protected]. Learn more about the Marin Flag Project by visiting their website at marinflagproject.com or by emailing [email protected]. Both organizations encourage locals to make donations and volunteer to help support the local LGBTQ+ community.