Getting dressed up in fun clothes — SF Pride in 2019 is pictured — is a popular type of Pride self-expression. (Saul Sugarman/Special to The Examiner)

Getting dressed up in fun clothes — SF Pride in 2019 is pictured — is a popular type of Pride self-expression. (Saul Sugarman/Special to The Examiner)

Why kink belongs at Pride, and why everything else does, too

Events, venues and festivals once LGBTQ-exclusive are now big melting pots


I got sucked into some bizarre trending debate this week about the appropriateness of kink and sex positivity at Pride festivals. Apparently, many onlookers believe that the LGBTQ community and gay men in particular have run amok with orgies in the streets and on big glittery parade floats.

Think of the children, critics said.

“Pride should be a cool, queer-friendly block party you can attend to meet with organizers and get cute shirts. Everyone should be able to attend,” one Tweet read.

Everyone can attend. In fact, in more than seven parades I’ve been part of in San Francisco, I’ve not once witnessed nudity, let alone some supposed raucous sex act that would scar the eyes of children. Watching the festivities from the sidelines along Market Street means you’ll most likely glimpse shirtless men in feather boas, drag queens and an army of corporate contingents from Google to Wells Fargo, along with droves of law firms and other companies showing solidarity to their LGBTQ employees.

And yes: there are also leather daddies, porn actors and other scantily-clad attendees. But I’d wager to guess this isn’t what critics mean when they say “no kink at Pride” and “think of the children.” I can’t help but recall actress Rose McGowan’s infamous tweet in 2014 to the ire of the LGBTQ community: “I see now people who have basically fought for the right to stand on top of a float wearing an orange speedo and take molly.” And that’s really what the latest squabble is all about: It’s that many attendees are expressing themselves and enjoying the event in ways that others don’t want to indulge.

I’ve watched Pride go through an identity crisis for as long as I’ve participated: “It’s too straight,” “police shouldn’t be there,” “corporations shouldn’t be there” and “there’s too much sex” are all criticisms I’ve heard. Everyone has their own take on what Pride should be. The most recent was last year’s “the first Pride was a riot,” linking the national Black Lives Matter riots to the 1969 ones that took place at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan. In 1970, the first parades began as marches in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, so beginning a long history of Pride as a protest.

I’ll admit it’s a bit before my time as a millennial, but I’d wager the protest continued through the 1990s as the AIDS crisis raged on, when stigma still reigned that being LGBTQ was an illness or subversive choice we made. Eventually the demonstrations worked, more people joined the party, and now many events, venues and festivals that were once LGBTQ-exclusive are now big melting pots.

Now everyone wants to go, and in some ways, we’re eating our words by touting this as an inclusive event for so many years, but that’s what it’s meant to be. Just my take: You can’t throw a party or protest built on inclusion, then exclude people from them. If police, straight people and children all want to attend, great! I am supportive of that, but then I’m equally if not more supportive of kink and sex also being at Pride festivals. If that’s not your bag, that’s OK! Don’t go. But I also wouldn’t worry too much about the parade itself traumatizing the eyes and minds of your young ones, unless they’re not into glitter, drag queens and feathers.

Just keep them away from Folsom and Dore street fairs, which are definitely for adults only.

This all is a little moot in San Francisco because organizers canceled the parade this year, although festivities will take place all June. The focal point locally—as I see it—will be parties thrown by and for the LGBTQ community along with the return of some typical summer soirees, culminating in what could be the best Pride events I’ve ever seen. I know I’m working on a fabulous outfit or three.

I leave you today with a rainbow cocktail. I originally asked bartender Joey “Crafty” Heal for a “Gaymer Night” in Castro four years ago. The event happened to be Pride themed, so we dubbed this one the “Rainbow Road.” I asked him how to make it last year and he replied in a message, “I think I made like 8 of them and said NOPE! Too much work.” The original had “everything,” he said: vodka, gin, rum, orange juice, blue Curacao and grenadine. I pulled together a few tips online to assist your process. The original cocktail was served in a martini glass, but for sanity and to make the colors separate, I suggest a tall one.

For a refreshing Pride-themed cocktail, try a colorful Rainbow Road. (Saul Sugarman/Special to The Examiner)

For a refreshing Pride-themed cocktail, try a colorful Rainbow Road. (Saul Sugarman/Special to The Examiner)

Rainbow Road


1 1/2 ounces vodka

1 ounce grenadine

1/4 ounce blue Curacao

Orange juice


Directions: Pour grenadine into the bottom of a tall glass, then fill with ice. Add another 2-3 ounces of orange juice until glass is about 2/3 full. Combine vodka and Curacao into a small glass, mix, and then add to the top of the tall cocktail. You can serve the cocktail as-is, but to get a little color variation, push a long bar spoon to the bottom of the glass and stir a little. Be careful or the colors will mix together!

Saul Sugarman is a San Francisco-based writer, event producer and apparel designer; visit him at He is a guest columnist and his opinions are not necessarily that of the Examiner.

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