Thoughts on Pride
By Benny Cartwright
San Diego Pride is just about here, and with that, Hillcrest will be throwing out the pink carpet to welcome hundreds of thousands of people to the neighborhood. This weekend celebration is considered to be one of the biggest events of the year in the San Diego region, and we Hillcresters couldn’t be more excited for the crowds to descend upon our community.
But lately, many of us have been more and more cautious about non-LGBTQ people who visit our “gayborhood,” especially those who visit our bars and night spots. It’s an interesting dynamic because we want to be welcome, but we are witnessing increased acts of bad behavior by some non-LGBTQ people who visit.
Hillcrest and its establishments have always welcomed everyone, but our venues are here first and foremost to be safe spaces for the LGBTQ community.
No matter what rights and protections we have achieved over the decades, many LGBTQ people still don’t feel safe visiting bars and establishments outside of our neighborhood. Being able to hold hands, embrace their partner, or just express themselves is important to LGBTQ people, but that expression is not welcome everywhere — even within San Diego County. This is why our own spaces are so important.
And for decades in our spaces, non-LGBTQ people have been our allies and friends, joining us, and enjoying our spaces with us. There were few reports of problems from “outsiders,” as most recognized that by visiting, they were guests of the LGBTQ community. They came to support their LGBTQ friends and enjoy the things that make our spaces so great.
But in recent years, as acceptance of LGBTQ people has increased, it has become “cool” to be around “the gays,” so we are seeing more non-LGBTQ people than ever in the neighborhood and at our venues. In general, we totally welcome this! We always have and always will.
But with the influx of “outsiders,” the amount of bad behavior from people who don’t understand our community has gotten out of hand. Some LGBTQ people have even reported not feeling safe in their own venues at certain times as patrons from outside the community cause all sorts of trouble, from thefts to making homophobic and transphobic slurs, to physical altercations and more.
Our bars and venues are working hard to curb this behavior, but it is still frustrating and, at times, feels unsafe. Because of this, some members of the community are rightfully lashing out. As many LGBTQ people only feel safe in Hillcrest and are witnessing the bad behavior, many are making comments on social media sharing their frustration, fear, and anger about what some outsiders are bringing into our neighborhood (and please note that I’ve been careful to include terms like “some” or “many” — certainly not all non-LGBTQ people are like this, and there are plenty of LGBTQ people who behave poorly, as well).
As a reaction to these concerns being shared by some LGBTQ people about the state of things in our bars lately, I’m seeing and hearing a lot of non-LGBTQ people clapping back with comments like, “But I’m a homeowner in Hillcrest! I don’t want to be disrespected, and these comments make me feel unwelcome!” or “I’m a straight person, and I can’t believe how unwelcoming your community is being to people like me!”
I want to encourage non-LGBTQ community members who live in and/or enjoy playing in our shared neighborhood to just take a step back for a moment when they hear LGBTQ people expressing their thoughts and feelings about this issue.
As I have stated, non-LGBTQ people are more than welcome here, but I hope they can understand the real threats and fear that many LGBTQ people are subject to every day. I ask these people to allow our community members to share their feelings without jumping in to say “But I’m a good one!” Let them lash out and complain about what they’re seeing in the community. If you aren’t one of those people causing the bad behavior, then it’s not directed at you.
To our non-LGBTQ friends, please be an ally and stand with us, instead of lashing back out, saying that you “don’t feel welcome.” You are welcome. Always. But we need your help in fighting against the people who come to the neighborhood to harm us. We appreciate you!
And if you happen to be one of the people who cause bad behavior in our neighborhood or bars (you probably aren’t reading this if you are, or you don’t see yourself as being a problem), really reflect on why it is that you want to be in these spaces. Are you here because you want to be supportive of the LGBTQ community and enjoy it with us, or because you feel entitled to any space that you think looks fun and you want to stomp all over it? Give it some thought.
With that, I hope everyone has a fantastic Pride weekend and beyond! Stay safe!
–Benny Cartwright is a longtime activist and community leader. Reach him at [email protected]. Follow him on Instagram @BennyC80.