Thousands turn out for LA Pride parade’s return to Hollywood

Kaylee Atkinson arrived at her first Pride March in Los Angeles on Sunday with the two most important people in her life: her mother and father.

Atkinson, 19, even picked out her outfits.

Mom wore a t-shirt that read, “If your parents don’t accept your identity, I’m your mom now.”

Dad rocked in a shirt that read, “Proud Dad of a Lesbian Smartass Daughter.”

“It feels like I belong here,” said Atkinson, who came out as a lesbian just before the COVID-19 pandemic began. “The support – it’s overwhelming.”

Such was the mood in Hollywood this weekend as LA Pride held its first in-person parade in two years.

The parade, which drew thousands of people to Hollywood Boulevard, was the first outside of the city of West Hollywood — the region’s iconic queer enclave — in more than 40 years. After a less than amicable pandemic divorce, LA Pride and West Hollywood went their separate ways, with the city holding its own parade just two miles away last weekend.

Despite some confusion over the double Pride weekends, Sunday’s parade-goers said they were just happy to be back in person at such a joyous celebration of LGBTQ people, at a time when lawmakers across the country are debating whether transgender Kids can play in youth sports leagues, whether teachers can talk about same-sex relationships in class, and whether parents who help their children seek gender-affirming care or take them to drag shows should be investigated for abuse.

On Saturday, police in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, arrested 31 members of the white racist group Patriot Front near a Pride event that authorities say they wanted to disrupt. “They came to riot downtown,” Police Chief Lee White said at a news conference.

Amidst the glitz and glamor, LA Pride felt like a family affair for many.

Atkinson, a Cal State Northridge student, beamed as she stood next to her parents, who said they were appalled by recent anti-LGBTQ legislation. Her mother, Monica Bundy, admitted that she was a bit nervous at first as she hopped onto a San Fernando Valley subway train in rainbow attire, but that she quickly saw other people clearly walking to the Pride Parade, and felt nothing but love.

“We’re just honored that she invited us,” said Atkinson’s father, Garrett Bundy. “We’re so proud of her.”

Jaida Harris, from Santa Clarita, brought her three children, ages 15, 13, and 8. She wore a T-shirt that read, “Mama Bear No Matter What.”

“For us, that’s not controversial,” Harris, 41, said of bringing her kids.

Harris’ 15-year-old son has special needs, and she said she wants to teach her children that all people deserve love.

“It’s the most important thing we can do as parents – it’s not about jobs or school. It’s about raising kids who accept and love no matter what,” she said. “Some people will say, ‘You’re going to have to explain a lot to the kids—'”

“- then explain it to them,” interrupted Brighton, her 13-year-old daughter.

Before the parade began, 8-year-old Rebel McKenna – in short overalls, a pair of glittery gold Mary Janes and a rainbow flag for a hat – twirled down an empty Hollywood Boulevard.

“Pride starting?” she asked her older siblings with a grin.

Her sister Ashlie Smith, 23, from Redondo Beach, said she knew Rebel would enjoy the rainbows – and that she wanted her to know that “it’s totally normal, it’s okay to be whatever you are.” want to be.”

Her brother, Chris McKenna, 21, who is bisexual, said watching the news these days makes it “feel like we’re going backwards”. He grew up with marriage equality and a society with broad acceptance, he said, and it is disheartening to now live in a world where his rights are again up for debate.

As a group of women on motorcycles revved their engines to kick off the parade, a young man with a pink and blue transgender pride flag slung over his shoulders stood atop humorist Will Rogers’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and yelled, ” Let’s gooooo!”

Nearby, Navia Mann held a rainbow-colored sign that read, “God is obsessed with you.”

Husband, 43, walked in the parade with her non-denominational, LGBTQ-friendly congregation, InVision Church LA, of which she and her wife are members. In years past, when people saw her at the parade, she says, they cried and ran to hug her.

“I’ve always been a Christian,” Mann said. “I’ve always been a lesbian. I have always been secure with God’s love for me.”

As the first wagons rolled by, a young woman wearing a pair of feathered, rainbow-colored angel wings cried for joy. The crowd cheered as a group of employees from Disney – which is mired in heated debates over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation – marched by in T-shirts that read “We are the magic” and handed out rainbow-colored Mickey Mouse stickers .

During a break between floats, a homeless man in sandals and a heavy coat walked alone down the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, revelers on either side of him. Some applauded. When a woman cried out, “We love you!” he looked at her confused and walked on.

As a group of Hot Topic staff — proud goths in matching black t-shirts, some in fishnet stockings and black lipstick — marched by, one man in the crowd yelled in delight, “Oh my god, Hot Topic!”

Aboard the Grindrand Astroglide Float, a drag queen waved atop a giant purple eggplant. And members of the West Hollywood City Council danced on a float to promote their own separate WeHo pride.

Lydia Mahoney watched with her ex-husband Jared, to whom she was married for four years before coming out as a lesbian. Said they’re still best friends, they chose loud outfits for their first Pride parade: rainbow-colored shorts and suspenders for her and a pink feather boa, tutu and tiara for him.

“I’m so happy to be able to support them,” said Jared, 28.

“This is so much fun,” added Lydia, 25. “It’s such a celebration. Just seeing the joy is contagious.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Thousands turn out for LA Pride parade’s return to Hollywood

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