Oakland's ninth annual Pride celebration kicks off Sunday, and while San Francisco Pride might be more well-known, Oakland Pride is becoming the go-to event for queer families.
They include people like Sacramento native Noelle Kaplan, who moved back to Oakland with her then-pregnant wife Stacey back in 2016 after a stint on the East Coast. Kaplan says the couple considered San Francisco, the historic hub of gay life, but quickly settled on Oakland.
Cost was the main factor, but Kaplan also says, "We knew we would be happy here, and we knew there would be other queer families."
But connecting with other LGBTQ families was harder than Kaplan expected.
Once her now two-year old was born, Kaplan says she tried to start a meetup group for queer families with newborns. No one came. She took to slipping her number to other cool moms at birthday parties, something she laughingly refers to as platonic "mom dating." She eventually started her own blog, called Queer Tribe.
"I've joined tons of mommy groups and spend a bunch of time at the park, and it's still rare to see queer families," Kaplan says.
Renata Moreira heads up Our Family Coalition, a nonprofit that's working to fill that void across the region, connecting queer families to essential resources and to each other. She says her group is doing more and more work in the East Bay, including a doubling of attendance at play groups and parent education seminars over the past three years.
Moreira says despite changing demographics, a lot of support is still focused on San Francisco.
"We have a lot of LGBTQI immigrant families in the East Bay, and a lot of our families end up seeking support in faith-based organizations, but then they go back in the closet," Moreira says. "They end up really not sharing out their family composition, receiving less than ideal support because they're going to face yet again relentless homophobia and transphobia. So often times when they come to us, they've navigated many kinds of social services before and have experienced trauma."
Moreira says the Coalition is helping to make its clientele a focus of Oakland Pride via the Family and Children’s Garden, which is expected to attract 1,500 LGBTQ families, more than any other Bay Area pride celebration, according to Moreira.
"Oakland Pride is the most family-friendly pride really in the nation, and I think it's a model in terms of inclusion, really every single racial background, social class, religion and so forth. It's really just a beautiful community space," says Moreira.
In that family spirit, while Dykes on Bikes lead the San Francisco parade, the Oakland celebration will be led by Tykes on Trikes.
Oakland Pride co-chair Carlos Uribe says the event has plenty for people of all ages who want a sex-positive experience, including four stages and tents for seniors and teens.
The day's festivities start with a pre-pride pancake breakfast near Oakland City Hall. The parade and festival kick off at 11 a.m. in downtown Oakland.