A pivotal year for Pride puts LGBTQ+ community in the spotlight — and the crosshairs

People take selfies along Hollywood Boulevard during the Gay Pride Parade.
People take selfies along Hollywood Boulevard during the L.A. Pride Parade on Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, June 13.

The very first Pride event was held in June 1970 to commemorate the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall rebellion, in which gay patrons of the famous bar, lesbians from nearby establishments and other onlookers fought against police officers who had targeted the bar for a raid.

More than 50 years later, June continues to place the LGBTQ+ community in the spotlight — or the crosshairs, depending on who you ask. Conservative backlash against recognizing Pride Month — and in some cases the general existence of LGBTQ+ people — seemingly surged in recent weeks, with threats of violence over Target’s Pride merchandise and a boycott of Bud Light after a transgender influencer promoted their products.


California, despite its branding as a progressive state, is not immune to all this. While the Dodgers’ Pride Night debacle was among the most high-profile controversies, we’ve seen anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in the form of demonstrations, vandalism and threats in the streets, in local city halls and school board meetings and on the doorsteps of homes and churches. In some cases, confrontations led to violence. Recent state data found that reported hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation bias are on the rise in the Golden State.

“Certainly, boycotts [and] backlash against the LGBTQ community, even violence explicitly against the LGBTQ community is nothing new,” Karen Tongson, chair and professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at USC, told me.

What does feel new, she said: “the extent to which violence itself has been mainstreamed... as part of this level of disapproval.”

For Tongson, who also works as a cultural critic and podcaster, there’s no mystery as to why anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and backlash feels more intense in recent years. She traces it to “the rise of fascist sentiment” that’s emboldened people on the far right, along with “a coordinated political effort to scapegoat the trans community in particular.”

That political effort has also taken the form of a growing slate of legislation across the U.S. “designed to erase queer identity and suppress forms of expression, such as drag, that buck traditional gender norms,” my colleague Kevin Rector reported recently. He noted:

Legal rights organizations have flagged 2023 as a watershed year for LGBTQ+ discrimination — with the American Civil Liberties Union tracking nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills nationwide and the Human Rights Campaign last week declaring a “state of emergency” for LGBTQ+ Americans.


Tongson views the legislative efforts as going “hand-in-hand with the intimidation efforts in person.”

“[It] provides a justification for these confrontations that are sometimes violent,” she said.

Also not new: capitalism is gonna capitalize. Corporate America has a rich tradition of peddling Pride merch and rainbowing out their brand’s logos every June, spawning the term “rainbow capitalism” and a yearly cavalcade of memes.

Budweiser has a decades-long history of LGBTQ+ marketing. Tongson recalls their presence at the first Pride event she attended years back. She also recalled buying rainbow swim trunks from Target’s Pride section about 10 years ago.

“I think that we should pay close attention to the fact that people are only becoming hysterical about it now, and also threatening violence about it in this particular moment,” she said. “It’s all part of the outrage machine; its supposed newness is being instrumentalized to stoke people’s fears.”

For Tongson, the recent backpedaling from brands facing boycotts and other threats presents an opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community to “be more reflective about how quickly we jump into partnerships with organizations if they do not provide sustained political advocacy, support and allyship — and not just dressing things up in rainbows during the month of June.”


Tongson said the focus should remain on what Pride means to her community and not the outraged voices outside of it.

“It’s a strong reminder that, initially, these gatherings... were community, grassroots efforts to get together to protest, to stand for our rights and insist on our presence and our right to be present in the world,” she explained. “Pride is fundamentally for us. We can celebrate Pride with or without Bud Light or Target — but Target and Bud Light are going to miss our money.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


Californians still have a chance at free money to help continue their education or get job training — but not for much longer. The Golden State Education and Training Grant Program is at risk of running dry from proposed funding cuts, giving state residents until Thursday to apply for the one-time grant. Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic lawmakers are still at odds over how much the state should invest in infrastructure during the next budget cycle. Legislators want to restore $2 billion in cuts Newsom proposed to transportation funding, which includes a lifeline for public transit systems in the state that face massive shortfalls and service cuts. San Francisco Chronicle



Despite his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, disgraced former attorney Tom Girardi has been deemed fit to stand trial by a government expert. Girardi is accused of stealing millions from settlements secured for his clients. Los Angeles Times

A shooting at a weekend birthday party in Antioch ended with an 18-year-old girl dead and six other people wounded. The city’s mayor has cited a staffing crisis within the police department, fueled in large part by a racist-text-message scandal that has 20% of officers suspended. The Mercury News

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SoCal’s coastal waters hosted some rare visitors in recent days: three sperm whales. The endangered mammals are difficult to spot and tend to stick to deeper water, but members of this group have been spotted off beaches several times, first in Orange County and more recently near Catalina Island. Los Angeles Times

Last year, ranchers were fined for intentionally violating an emergency water order by pumping water from the Shasta River. Now state lawmakers want to triple the fines and open the door to possible penalties in the millions. CalMatters


San Francisco’s struggling downtown received another blow this week. Westfield announced it’s walking away from its massive mall in downtown San Francisco, citing a deep plunge in foot traffic and sales. That follows Nordstrom’s planned closure, which would leave the shopping center with a 55% lease occupancy rate. San Francisco Chronicle


It took 30 years, but some stretches of streets in Fresno have been officially renamed for Cesar Chavez. The effort to honor the farm labor leader and civil rights icon began shortly after his death in 1993. The renamed streets have historical ties to Chavez and the labor movement he helped lead as the site of marches and protests. The Fresno Bee

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Today’s California landmark is from Elyse Jankowski: the Old West church at Paramount Ranch.

The church set at Paramount Ranch.
(Elyse Jankowski)

Elyse writes:

The old church at Paramount Ranch was one of only two buildings to survive the Woolsey Fire in November 2018. As Paramount Ranch starts to rebuild its famous movie sets in 2023 and in the years to come, the church remains an iconic film industry landmark.

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special spot in California — natural or human-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Please be sure to include only photos taken directly by you. Your submission could be featured in a future edition of the newsletter.

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