July 15 2015 11:41 AM

San Diego Pride is a time to reflect, celebrate

Photo courtesy of SD LGBT Pride

There is an abundance of reasons why you should read this week's cover feature about the remarkable journey of outgoing 14-year-old Ari Zelkind. He was born a girl, but never felt comfortable in that gender role. With the loving support of parents and friends he's nearly finished the medical, physical and emotional transition to boyhood.

Freelance writer/author Jennifer Coburn, a friend of the Zelkind family, brought San Diego CityBeat the story. It's a real reader. In publishing it we're not trying to keep up with the Kardashians. Rather, we're doing an alt-weekly's job to reflect the times and help nudge the needle of social change.

From the national legalization of same-sex marriage to the lowering of the Confederate flags from South Carolina's State House grounds, it's been a hell of a year for progress in the social-issues arena.

This weekend is a well-deserved opportunity for the San Diego LGBT community to celebrate tangible progress in an evolution of attitude, most notably, the Supreme Court's thunderbolt ruling. Hundreds of thousands of people will revel under rainbow flags as the city's 41st Pride Weekend gears up with a music festival, rally, block party, wedding expo and one ginormous parade.

Some may feel like the legalization of same-sex marriage just happened overnight. (And maybe dissenting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thinks this is all just a bad dream.) But change has always been generational. Think from the perspective of gay activists who stood up to police brutality in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Or, talk to San Diegans about the solemn procession in 1974 of a few hundred souls who marched up Sixth Avenue from downtown to Balboa Park in support of the cause.

Forty-plus years ago, participants in those marches eschewed cameras, for fear somebody would be ID-ed, outed and/or lose their job. Now? The parade is a street party for nearly a quarter million people. Politicians and police, who used to ignore and instigate the community, ride on floats and wave to cameras and bystanders along the Pride parade route.

Was nearly half a century too long a period of time to expect social justice to turn a corner? Yes and no. Change happens incrementally. Then, seemingly with a jolt, the big benchmarks take you by surprise. It's been five years, for example, since military service members were allowed to openly march in the San Diego Pride parade. It took another year for them to get permission to walk in their government issued uniforms. This year, as the Pentagon finalizes the nationwide plan to allow transgender individuals to serve in the military, for the first time the parade here will include active-duty transgender service members.

Liberty and Justice For All. That's the theme of this year's Pride celebration. Those last five words of The Pledge of Allegiance had seemingly become stale and rote in recent years. But 2015 is polishing them off and giving them a new shine.

A battleship can't change directions on a dime, and bias and bigotry have to dissipate before they can disappear. When a gust of wind blows away some of life's murky smoke, you live in the moment, celebrate the advance and then keep pushing forward. In another 40 years the transgender experience won't be cause for stories in the media. It'll just be another facet of life. As the days click by, our present day will evolve and become tomorrow's history. And while we meander into the future, change will always take time to coalesce, and still catch us by surprise when it breaks the mold. 

Write to rond@sdcitybeat.com


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