Juanita More, Legendary SF Activist, on the Legacy and Significance of Pride
Very few people can say they’ve raised nearly $1 million for their local LGBTQ community, but legendary activist, philanthropist and queen Juanita More is one of those people. A community organizer in the truest sense of the word, Juanita More’s name on an event flyer is like a seal of quality for local LGBTQ events in San Francisco. And after the year we’ve all had, she raring to go now that an in-person Pride Month is once again on the table.
Focused on reigniting LGBTQ nightlife in San Francisco and helping local talent recover economically from the COVID-19 fallout, Juanita More has a packed Pride Month calendar, including her own renowned Pride party, taking place Sunday, June 27. (Advance tickets are available for purchase now at several local spots.)
Pride Month is a special time around the world, but especially so for a city as LGBTQ-affirming as San Francisco, and it’s an important time of year for Juanita More in particular. Hornet sat down with her to discuss the meaning and personal significance of Pride, her first foray into marching down Market Street and her message to the broader queer community this year.
“What Pride Means to Me” by Juanita More
I remember the first time I marched with a contingent at Pride. It was pure magic, stepping off the curb and planting my foot onto Market Street here in San Francisco. The heavy weight of not being out to everyone in my life had finally been lifted off my back, and I felt like I had set myself free; I was floating way up high in the clouds. I smiled for the entire day.
It wouldn’t be until years later, when Juanita was born, that I participated in the parade in full regalia. Our little drag troupe, The Fishstix, created a float supported by two locally owned queer businesses, George Pet Shop and Space Gallery. Like royalty, we waved and waved (and waved, and waved) until our wrists hurt. It was a fabulous experience, and I knew I wanted to participate in the parade every year. And for a few years we did just that, teaming up with other local businesses, creating art and celebrating Pride. I once rode on top of a post office vehicle that was turned into a taco delivery truck like a little muñeca.
Since that very first celebration, Pride has shown me an immense amount of respect for our queer elders and a responsibility to empower our queer youth. Our community has thrived because of the previous brave generations before us; those legends planted the seeds of both love and compassion and strength and resilience. It’s my duty as a community leader to keep what was planted alive. I want to keep building our future by supporting our LGBTQ+ youth in their quest to carry on the legacy of our queer elders.
I’ve been an active member of our community as a mother, a civil rights activist and a philanthropist for the past 30 years. I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with many of our city’s leaders, activists and social icons to bring our community together and evoke positive change. Pride offers me a louder platform to do just that — I don’t know any other way.
This year, as our city and state begin to open up more from the pandemic, so is my calendar. There are lots of exciting things happening. I DJ’d at The Fairmont Hotel for its Drag Queens On Top brunch on June 13 and will be back at the stove for the Williams Sonoma Drag Queen Cook-Off on June 22. I also got to jump on the DJ decks for SF Pride Movie Night at Oracle Park! (Editor’s note: You can read all about SF Pride’s weekend of movie nights here!)
On Sunday, June 27, activist Alex U. Inn and I will be reviving last year’s People’s March & Rally to unite and fight for civil rights. We once again will follow the original route of the first Pride parade in San Francisco. And of course there’s my annual Pride Party, which is now in its 18th year. To date, the party, along with other events, has helped to raise over $900,000 for local charities, making some very impactful contributions to our community. This year we will be supporting the great work and history at the Imperial Court of San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund. I have created a safe place filled with art, magic, love and togetherness, a sensibility our queer community craves.
Pride has brought us together for decades now. Pride is a time to come together in our queer spaces and celebrate with our friends, family and chosen family. The history of our community is rooted mainly in clubs and bars, as these are our safe spaces to meet, love, dance and thrive. But it is not enough just to dance. We still need to have fun, but we also need to lead from the heart in our fight for those whose shoulders we have stood upon in the past. There are currently more attacks on the trans community happening in the United States than have ever been noted. As a result, transgender individuals in many states are now being denied access to transition-related health care, are excluded from sex-specific programs and are left vulnerable to other forms of discrimination, such as being misgendered or harassed by health care providers and competing in sports.
Presently our community is stronger than ever, and we possess the power to connect, learn and grow together. Let us resolve to continue loving, leading and resisting at this Pride celebration and every one in the future.