SLO kicks off first ever transgender Pride celebration with festival, drag shows
The Gala Pride and Diversity Center is hosting its first-ever transgender Pride festival in San Luis Obispo this weekend.
Trans Pride features three main events: a dance party and drag show on Friday night; a festival on Saturday, and a panel discussion with local transgender folks and allies on Monday, according to Ila Moncrief, chair of Tranz Central Coast and a Gala Pride and Diversity Center board member.
The festival will feature drag shows, arts and crafts and even free gender-affirming haircuts, Moncrief said.
“We want to have a celebration of joy,” they said. “It’s also about putting equity into practice, to uplift our trans community and provide much-needed community spaces and resource opportunities.”
SLO Pride events have grown rapidly since the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Gala Pride and Diversity Center hosting its largest ever Pride Festival at Laguna Lake Park in May 2022.
This year, the organization has planned even more Pride events.
Trans Pride was inspired by similar celebrations in San Francisco and Los Angeles, according to Moncrief.
“SLO wants to be that in-between place that’s the next largest stop for the Pride celebration,” they said.
Also for the first time ever, the Gala Pride and Diversity Center hosted Pride Prom in May, an event designed to celebrate LGBTQ+ high school students and their allies.
New SLO event celebrates transgender community
According to Moncrief, celebrating the trans community is especially important now as anti-transgender bills are being introduced in legislatures across the United States.
The American Civil Liberties Union is tracking 491 anti-LGBTQ bills in the United States, many of which attempt to block gender-affirming healthcare, prevent trans youth from participating in school activities or undermine nondiscrimination laws.
San Luis Obispo County has dealt with anti-LGBTQ incidents over the past year.
In October, San Luis Obispo businesses faced harassment for hosting drag shows.
On Tuesday, community members called the rainbow Pride flag “ungodly” and urged the Arroyo Grande City Council not to fly it at City Hall.
Despite criticism, the City Council voted unanimously to fly the Pride flag during Pride Month in June for the third consecutive year.
In November, the Morro Bay City Council voted to fly the Pride flag during June.
San Luis Obispo’s Trans Pride event offers an escape from political strife and a space for folks to celebrate their identities with a supportive community, according to Moncrief.
“Celebration is a form of escape, of fun, of rest, joy,” they said. “People want to have a good time, and they deserve to when they’re bombarded by the daily traumas and difficulties of life.”
Festival, drag shows planned for Trans Pride
The fun kicked off Friday with a drag show and dance party at Libertine Brewing Company, 1234 Broad St. in downtown San Luis Obispo.
“We felt that it’s important to create a safe and fun dance environment for trans folks,” Moncrief said. “Unfortunately, a lot of bars out here do not produce the most safe environment for a lot of queer people, so it was about trying to curate that community and the freedom to have fun.”
Guests can buy drinks, hit the dance floor and enjoy a supportive space to express their identity, Moncrief said. Drag queens will perform intermittently at the party, too.
“It’s a good mixture of ‘Everybody dance! Have a good time!’ — and you also get a show with it,” they said.
Tickets cost $10 online and $15 at the door.
On Saturday, folks can attend a free festival celebration of SLO County’s transgender, non-binary, gender nonconforming and intersex community at Meadow Park in San Luis Obispo from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Moncrief said.
The event features meditation, a scavenger hunt, a Pride history display, crafts such as jewelry and flag making and games including a super-sized Connect 4.
Attendees can also enjoy food trucks and a performance space with open-mic opportunities and a drag show.
Participants can talk with medical professionals for free in the festival’s wellness space, Moncrief said.
According to Moncrief, constituents often request healthcare and legal resources from Tranz Central Coast, along with opportunities to find community and social groups. This festival aims to address those needs, they said.
Families are welcome at the event, and Gala Pride and Diversity Center volunteers trained to work with children will monitor the park’s playground for safety, according to Moncrief.
In addition to outdoor attractions, a flurry of activities is planned for Meadow Park’s indoor facility.
San Luis Obispo’s Tigerlily Salon will offer free haircuts and make-up application, alongside a clothing swap with items organized by type and size. The binder booth will offer free chest binders made by GC2B.
“Our whole idea is to have this sort of space to really honor gender expression and give people the opportunity to get free stuff and pick up what they need to feel themselves and feel empowered,” Moncrief said.
On Monday, the Gala Pride and Diversity Center will host a free Trans Lived Experiences Panel where local trans folks and their allies will discuss their experiences from 6 to 8 p.m. People can attend in person at 1060 Palm St. in San Luis Obispo, or virtually via Zoom.
Pride Month events in store
After Trans Pride, there are plenty of Pride Month events to look forward to in San Luis Obispo.
The Fremont Theater, 1035 Monterey St. in downtown San Luis Obispo, is hosting an 18-and-up drag and burlesque show from 6 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday, June 2.
Tickets cost $27 to $57, or $600 for a table of six people with craft cocktails and commemorative growlers.
On Saturday, June 3, folks of all ages can attend the free Pridefest festival at Laguna Lake Park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring music, drag shows, food and drinks, and arts and crafts.
Pridefest is followed by a 21-and-over after-party at Libertine Brewing Company from 5 to 11 p.m., featuring dancing and drag performances.
Pride in the Plaza runs 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, June 4, in Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo. The free event features booths, food and entertainment for all ages.