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Pride Month

Reflections on the LightHouse Contingent at the San Francisco Pride Parade

Reflections on the LightHouse Contingent at the San Francisco Pride Parade

0n June 26, LightHouse community members, students, volunteers and staff gathered to honor and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community by marching in the 52nd Annual San Francisco Pride Parade.

This was the fourth time LightHouse has marched in the parade, the three previous being in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The parade returned for in-person festivities this year after those were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

Below are some thoughts from people who worked as part of the LightHouse contingent.

Sheri Albers, Community Outreach Coordinator:

“Pride was filled with energy that seemed to have been bottled up for the past two and-a-half years of pandemic cloistering. The crowd was excited and cheered for LightHouse as we went by, as if they were really happy to see us! Our contingent was a nice mix of students, staff, volunteers and family members. For some, it was their very first LightHouse event! I had the privilege of holding the LightHouse banner and walking down the middle of Market Street on that beautiful San Francisco morning. It was an unforgettable experience.”

Daisy Soto, Youth Services Coordinator:

“For the past few years, getting to be part of the LightHouse’s Pride parade contingent is something I’ve always looked forward to. Disability representation is something that is often lacking in spaces such as Pride, which makes the opportunity to march in a contingent largely made up of blind and disabled folks all the more special and significant. I’m grateful that the LightHouse has provided a safe and inclusive way for disabled members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies to participate in such an important and empowering event.”

We also got some reflections from one of our wonderful volunteers who participated, Danica Kubota:

“I really liked participating in Lighthouse’s contingent because I got to talk to people from all different backgrounds that I wouldn’t ordinarily have had the chance to talk to. Stella, one of the other volunteers, offered to paint a rainbow on my face with her Pride stamp/marker which was very kind of her, considering she had only known me for five minutes. Seeing everyone cheering and holding up their flags and posters with empowering and kind messages as we marched by really touched me, and as cheesy as it sounds, restored a little of my faith in humanity.”

And here are reflections from LightHouse student and volunteer, Dennis O’Hanlon:

“The intersection of sexuality and disability is such an important topic that is often overlooked. It was really to have this day with all my friend at LightHouse.”

We give a huge thank you to everyone who participated in celebrating with us. And now, a final word from Allyson Ferrari, LightHouse Volunteer Manager:

“It felt amazing to be back in the San Francisco Pride Parade after two years of pausing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The energy in the air was electric and being able to march with the LightHouse community is the highlight of every June. We’re grateful to once again partner with San Francisco Pride in increasing accessibility. We also partnered with Aira this year as well to bring audio description to the Parade viewing experience. Save the date for Pride 2023 – Sunday, June 25th!”

A Blind Poet in the LightHouse Studio: Watch “Vision” by Leah Gardner

A Blind Poet in the LightHouse Studio: Watch “Vision” by Leah Gardner

“I’m a woman who’s a blind, depressed lesbian,” says Leah Gardner, with a good-humored chuckle. “That’s who I am. That’s my reality and I’m okay with it.”

Leah is also a part-time tech trainer at LightHouse and a slam poet. She will be marching with our San Francisco Pride Contingent this Sunday, June 25 to #BeSeen.

Leah hasn’t participated in Pride in about 15 years — since she was a young poet in New Hampshire and Vermont — but when she heard about our blind and visually impaired contingent from our weekly newsletter, she decided it was time to march again. In her late 20s, marching in Pride offered her a lot of hope, along with a sense acceptance and celebration in who she was and what she offered to a community. After a tough couple of years, Leah is ready to feel that hope again.

“There’s a lot of excitement building for me, just in terms of being part of this,” she says. “Every time that I participated in the New Hampshire and Vermont marches, it was with wonderful friends but they were all sighted. It was not part of a visually impaired community, as key to me as that was in my life. This year carries this newness to it. It will be a completely original experience of sharing this day with people who are also blind and GLBTQ. So I’m really energized.”

We’re asking folks to use the hashtag #BeSeen and think about what that means in the context of Pride.

“I think a lot of people are very comfortable with talking about sexuality but the vision loss and the reality of that creates a lot of shame,” says Leah. “And in my case I also deal with severe depression, which adds some challenges in finding a way to form bonds with other people. We all have some shame about something, some facet of our personality. This ‘Being Seen’ concept to me has become about saying no to that shame.”

And Leah is no stranger to thinking about the intersection of blindness and sexuality. One of the poems she has performed most over the years is a poem called “Vision” about a gay friend who was losing his sight. The poem unpacks the shame and fear that often accompanies both sexuality and disability, and is a testament to the courage it takes to go through a world that isn’t always kind to people it deems outside of the norm. In advance of San Francisco Pride, we asked Leah to perform “Vision” in the LightHouse studio. Watch the video below.

Leah will present this poem live at our “All Eyes on Allies: Pride Training and Community Building” on June 22 where she also discuss what it means to show up to Pride as an ally for people with multiple marginalized identities. This training will also teach volunteers how to be effective human guides.

We hope you’ll volunteer to be part of our contingent. Sign up to march with us on June 25 at our Eventbrite page.