Sports fans over the last month in Oakland have had mixed emotions about publicly celebrating victories and events in light of the recent tragedies striking Orlando and Oakland.
Just two nights after Pulse nightclub — a safe haven in which the LGBT community used as an escape from bigotry before 49 were murdered and several others injured — the A’s hosted their second annual LGBT Pride Night, a pre-planned date with some timing as equally fortunate as it wasn’t.
The A’s dedicated the night to the victims and families of the LGBT-friendly nightclub and citizens of Orlando with a moment of silence, passing the first-pitch ball down a line of LGBT community members and allies- including closer Sean Doolittle, CSN California’s Eireann Dolan, and the University of San Francisco’s Women’s Basketball Head Coach Jennifer Azzi.
— Oakland A's (@Athletics) June 15, 2016
During Neal’s trip to Oakland to watch her favorite team play a few weeks ago, however, she presented as a man and felt uncomfortable and ashamed of herself in doing so:
“I felt like I wasn’t being true to myself.”
On top of emotions of feeling inauthentic to her true self, Neal was publicly insulted by Twitter trolls after being called “a clown” by the former ESPN commentator Curt Schilling.
After attending the game as a man, Jason, in deciding that she would fully embrace herself and rid herself of naysayers, Neal threw away the last remains of male clothing she owned and embodied the meaning of Pride; being your true self and proud of it:
“Being Jamie at the game was exactly what I had expected it to be and was better than the year before. I wasn’t nearly as nervous. … As for the Curt Schilling fiasco, he just made me dig my stilettos in even more. The thought that people are entitled to their opinions is a great one, but recently I’ve concluded that opinions based in hate and ignorance aren’t valid which means that his aren’t valid.”
The crowd in Oakland was considerably smaller than last year’s events at 13,101 which many of the fans present told SFBay was due to multiple vigils or various memorials held around the Bay Area for the same cause but most definitely not because of the fear factor.
Though the crowd may have been small, pride and inclusivity were not.
A variety of fans used duct-tape to cover the last names of their favorite players and instead wrote out their support for Orlando with messages of love and encouragement in sharpies, such as #PrayforOrlando and #WeAreOrlando.
A handful of fans made a poster they proudly displayed throughout the game with a heart filled with rainbow colors, stating “Oakland hearts Orlando” and danced away as Cher’s “Do You Believe in Love After Love” blast through the sound system, bringing joy to the crowds when smiles had been hard to come by.
One group of ladies, including Katie Pratt, were at the game proudly wearing the A’s promotional LGBTQ rainbow headbands and flashy knee-high socks, shouting “Lesbians for life!” down the corridors of the Coliseum hallways.
Pratt, an Oakland native, dubbed a local celebrity by her close friends, famously married her girlfriend Maria Perez on ABC’s morning show “Good Morning America” during their Wide World of Weddings live stream- where in 24 hours, 100 couples married their partners on live television throughout the world.
Always outspoken in regards to fair and equal treatment, Pratt and her group of friends simultaneously agreed that they would not hide from enclosed spaces or be afraid to go out into public and show their pride. Adding to that, Pratt says she will not shy away from who she truly is under the threat of violence erupting.
Neal also appreciated the pregame ceremonies and that the A’s donated money to multiple LGBTQ programs and allies throughout the Bay Area:
“The pregame ceremony where the A’s honored the victims was tough. The one thing I’ve learned through the terrorist attack in Orlando is that the LGBT community and its allies far outweigh the terrible people in this world.”
“Orlando really affected me. That really struck home because it’s like, that could have been anyone in any city at any time. A hateful action like that brings the community closer and forces us to be more absolute in our resolve to educate people and be ourselves.”
Whether or not the tragedy of Orlando affected Neal’s decision to attend Pride Night, or how it affects those attending San Francisco Pride in the next week, Neal states that awareness is the biggest key in attending public celebrations:
“Safety is always a concern, especially at big events. I heard someone say, “My grandma told me I’d better be careful and not go to those clubs anymore. I told her that there was a shooting at my apartment complex, she want me to move from there too?” We have to be aware but we have to live our lives.”
“I have four sons, one of them the same age as the young girl [Jefferies], my husband actually was at her funeral service. It’s very scary to know that he can be at an event and get injured. It’s always very scary, not only what’s going on with young kids and violence among one another but also what’s going on with Oakland Police Department right now and other police departments, so it’s always scary to go out in large groups.”