Pride march headed for Santee in the wake of YMCA protests over transgender rights

An LGBT flag flies on the corner of University Avenue and Normal Street in Hillcrest in a file photo.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Months after hundreds gathered in the eastern San Diego County community of Santee to oppose letting transgender people use locker rooms aligning with their gender identity, a local church is organizing a Pride march in the city.

The local United Methodists have previously hosted small and virtual Pride gatherings, but the Saturday event could be larger and also carry extra resonance because of the recent rallies outside a YMCA.

Outside Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood, parents protesting a Pride Day assembly clashed with police and counterprotesters supporting LGBTQ+ rights and education.

June 2, 2023


“We think this is a really good opportunity to show” that “most of our citizens are really welcoming,” Nanette Burrell, a Santee resident and church member, told city leaders last month.

The march also comes as Pride displays continue to be debated throughout the San Diego County region.

La Mesa’s policy to fly a rainbow flag outside City Hall has repeatedly drawn opposition from one council member and some residents. Carlsbad students recently walked out of classes to oppose the decision by their school board and council not to display a Pride flag, while leaders of the Chula Vista Elementary School District recently reversed course to hoist Pride colors at its headquarters.

While questions surrounding LGBTQ+ rights have riven churches nationwide, including United Methodists, many local congregations have been vocal supporters of the community.

Santee’s march is scheduled to begin Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in the church’s parking lot at 8964 Magnolia Ave.

There will be a half-hour opening ceremony, and organizers said the speakers would include Mayor John Minto.


Attendees will walk about a mile-long route before returning to the church.

Water will be available, Burrell told the council at a May meeting. “This should be a positive and noncontroversial event.”

Others also spoke at the public meeting to support the march, including one who said pushback around the country to LGBTQ+ rights — including book bans and bills targeting drag shows — made gatherings like these more important.

The Santee YMCA closed down during a pair of protests outside its doors, including one that drew apparent members of the extremist organization the Proud Boys.

The facility recently overhauled its locker rooms so nobody has to change clothes in front of others.

Santee School District leaders initially appeared hesitant about continuing field trips at the YMCA, though a tour last month of the redesigned bathrooms, combined with a new policy banning public nudity, appears to have assuaged their fears.

West Hollywood hosts the WeHo pride parade, an imaginative and colorful annual tradition along Santa Monica Boulevard that embraces LGBTQ+ representation, inclusion, and progress. Full of music, dancing, colorful floats, festive marching contingents, and creative flair, the parade celebrates LGBTQ+ people and our contributions to community and culture.

June 4, 2023

Officials emailed families last month to announce that YMCA staff would clear locker rooms before student groups were allowed in and that kids would always be accompanied by district employees.

“We thank the Cameron Family YMCA for their ongoing efforts to ensure our students and all visitors feel comfortable at their facility,” board members wrote May 5, “and we look forward to all of the fun our students will have this spring and summer.”

Multiple Pride events are scheduled throughout San Diego County in June, including one at Collier Park in Ramona the same day as Santee’s.

San Diego Union-Tribune editor Abby Hamblin contributed to this report.