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1st Time at Pride Has You Feeling a Lot? Be Yourself and Make Community

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Spectators line Market Street while cheering on participants at the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 26, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Pride Weekend in San Francisco is kicking off in just a few hours — and if this will be your first time at this iconic celebration, you are in for a weekend full of music, drag, marches and a deep dive into Bay Area queer history.

KQED has a thorough guide with all of the logistics for 2024 Pride weekend in San Francisco, including transit details, how to get Narcan in the case of an overdose, and ways to reduce the risks of STI exposure. Other guides to keep in mind during Pride Weekend include:

As you get ready for your first Pride, you may feel a lot of happiness and excitement — but you may also be a bit anxious. Oliver EliasTinoco, youth co-facilitator with LYRIC, a center for LGBTQ+ young people based in San Francisco, recalled their hectic first Pride weekend at 17. Between stages, after-parties, performances, crowds, music and more, it’s easy for one to feel the need to do it all.


“It can be a whole day thing if you choose it to be,” they said. “I was running on fumes by the end of my first time.”

But it is a moment they hold dear. EliasTinoco graduated this year from San Francisco State University, a college experience that also included the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because I spent two years of my college experience online, one of the biggest things that being able to be at Pride again now means to me is that creation of community,” they said. “I am someone who gets my energy from other people, from seeing my friends, from just being in a community space with other folks who look like me, talk like me, act like me.

Read on for advice on navigating all the feelings that come with celebrating Pride for the first time.

A marcher holds a sign reading “It should not be a crime to be queer” as the Pride parade gets underway in downtown San Francisco on June 25, 2023.
A marcher holds a sign reading ‘It should not be a crime to be queer’ as the Pride parade gets underway in downtown San Francisco. (Kori Suzuki/KQED)

First things first: Remember the essentials

Some mom-like advice to get out of the way. (It’s important, sorry.)

If you don’t live in the city, do not drive to San Francisco, said Madisen Ellis, who is also part of LYRIC. “It’s really not going to be a fun time for you. Parking is going to be a nightmare. Just take public transport,” she said.

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If you do end up driving in, KQED has a guide on how to reduce the risk of your car being broken into (yes, it happens) and if the unfortunate strikes, KQED has a guide on what to do at that moment. And for cyclists, what to do if your bike is stolen in the Bay Area.

  • Wear sunscreen and drink water — the weather forecast predicts a sunny weekend in San Francisco.
  • Charge your phone in the morning and try bringing a portable battery to charge it on the go.
  • Wear comfortable shoes — you’ll likely do a lot of walking.

EliasTinoco’s biggest advice is for young people not to skip breakfast in the morning.

“I know we run up the house because we’re spending the entire morning getting ready … but take 10 minutes to eat some cereal, eat a sandwich, do something because you’re going to be feeling it,” they said.

They pointed out vendor food at Pride can be pricey too, so budgeting can help a lot.

Several people are seen walking down the middle of the street holding up a large rainbow flag.
Participants carry an oversized rainbow flag during the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 26, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

There is a lot to tackle

Pride can be three days of back-to-back events — and it will feel packed. (And there will be a lot of free merchandise you can nab during your time there.)

This year will also have the San Francisco Pride’s Youth Stage, which is dedicated for LGBTQ+ people ages 18 to 24, on Saturday at Polk and Grove. The stage will feature young performers in that age range, with a special highlight for the ballroom scene in San Francisco. Ellis said a family-friendly area will also be nearby, including balloon artists and face painters for children.

“What we’re trying to do is create a space at Pride where youth feel like this is just as much their celebration as it is anyone else’s,” said EliasTinoco, who is also helping to run the stage. “It’s the youth that’s ultimately going to be who takes over this city like a couple years down. So we want them to know that this is a space that’s nurturing to them — that San Francisco is a safe space for them.”

EliasTinoco also recommended checking out other stages with highlight performers — like the Latin Stage, which will feature RuPaul Drag Race’s Vanessa Vanjie Mateo.

There will also be after-parties as well — and KQED Arts has a lengthy roundup of Pride parties in the Bay Area.

Drag dancer dance on an outdoor stage.
Drag queens Nicki Jizz, Heaven on Earth and Snaxx dance on the Oasis SF float during the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 26, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

So don’t feel like you need to do it all

Something that EliasTinoco remembers from their first Pride weekend is feeling like they needed to be a more “extroverted” version of themselves for their first weekend — and it ended up draining them and taking away some of the fun of the experience.

Their biggest advice to other young people is not to pressure yourself to act a certain way or “be anything other than yourself.”

EliasTinoco also said that with all of the programming during the weekend, first-time attendees should not feel like they need to see every single thing there.

“‘I need to make sure that people know I saw everything, I need to get all my pictures,’” they described the feelings. “And it’s honestly: Don’t feel like you have to be a part of every single thing there because you’re going to learn that some of the things being represented there and some of the groups there maybe don’t really resonate with, or maybe they’re just not as fun for you.”

They explained that Pride is what you make of it — something you would want to return next year and do all over again.

Wayne Shi, 23, of San Francisco waits for the Pride parade to begin in downtown San Francisco on June 25, 2023.
Wayne Shi, 23, of San Francisco waits for the Pride parade to begin in downtown San Francisco on June 25, 2023. (Kori Suzuki/KQED)

Understand others celebrate Pride in their own way

EliasTinoco said new attendees are going “to be seeing a lot of things, maybe for the first time, that you haven’t seen before.”

“Understand that Pride is a very open space. Pride covers the range of ages, the range of identities, the range of interests and different subcommunities within the LGBTQ+ community,” they said.

For example, you may see someone naked at Pride — which is also a regular occurrence in the Castro District.

If you do not want to be around this, EliasTinoco said you do not have to engage with everything and instead should head to another part of Pride “where you feel a little more comfortable or safer and also just keep an open mind, know that nobody really is there to harm you or to cause you any kind of discomfort or make you feel uneasy.”

“It’s simply that this is a chance for everyone to express their own interests and their own identity within the queer community, meaning that just as much as we have a right to express ourselves, other people do too.”


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