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Family Pride Day at San Mateo County Fair celebrates inclusion, diversity in LGBTQ community

Transgender teens Nate and Kai spent years feeling isolated in their gender identities. Now, they said, events like Family Pride Day at the San Mateo County Fair earlier this month help them feel recognized, accepted and celebrated in who they are.

Nate, 15, said:

“For me, [Pride] is important because I hated myself for so long, just for being me. … It’s a lot harder to go through some of these things if you don’t know that there are other people who are going through the same thing or that there’s other people you can talk to about it.”

The teens said they were thrilled to see Family Pride Day on the roster for the 2021 San Mateo County Fair. It was a “no-brainer”, Kai said, that they wanted to go:

“I didn’t know what I was experiencing was a real thing, I was like, oh, I’m just making it up. … But to know that other people are experiencing it too, it makes you feel less alone.”

She added that she hopes to see more events like it in the future, especially ones geared towards families and children. Both Nate and Kai requested to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns.

The San Mateo County Fair celebrated its second annual Family Pride Day on Sunday of opening weekend earlier this month, kicking off festivities in the morning with a raising of the Progress Pride Flag near the fairgrounds main entrance.

In addition, Covid-19 vaccinations were available on-site. Participants would receive free admission to the fair, a $20 food voucher and four free carnival ride tickets.

Masks were required at the event, with many fairgoers opting to wear Pride-themed face coverings.

San Mateo County community leaders, including co-chair of the San Mateo County LGBTQ Commission Dana Johnson, spoke at the flag-raising, acknowledging the history behind Pride month, including the 1969 Stonewall Riots.

Johnson, who has served on the San Mateo County LGBTQ commission since 2019, said the Progress Pride flag represents the changes the LGBTQ community has made in recent years in welcoming more marginalized individuals, such as people of color and transgender people, into the community.

The Progress Pride flag was designed in 2018 as an updated version of artist Gilbert Baker’s original Rainbow flag. It features a vertical triangle with black and brown stripes, representing Black and Latinx LGBTQ people, respectively, as well as colors from the transgender pride flag.

Johnson said:

“For me, I feel like the flag really brings a stronger sense of inclusivity to the [LGBTQ] community. With the progressive Pride flag, it shows that there is a little bit more equity, for everyone to be part of the LGBTQ umbrella.”

Jesús U. BettaWork, who also served as the master of ceremonies for the San Mateo County Fair community stage, said that while he personally feels represented by Baker’s original rainbow flag, he views the Progress Pride flag as a “beautiful” redesign that honors LGBTQ people of color:

“I think [the progress Pride flag] is a wonderful thing, just in general. It makes perfect sense to me. … You know, it’s wonderful, San Mateo County recognizing the diversity that exists here.”

While the annual event boasted typical fair activities, like carnival rides, funnel cakes and games, the highlight of this Sunday afternoon was a drag show at the fairgrounds community stage. 

Bay Area drag queens Vanilla Meringue, Holly Graphic, Lucinda Puss and Coco Buttah lip-synced a number of songs, including Tina Turner’s ‘Proud Mary’ and a modern cover of ‘It’s Raining Men.’ The show was followed by a comedy performance by BettaWork.

BettaWork said that many of the LGBTQ events he has worked in the past have been adult-focused, though he believes family-friendly events such as Family Pride Day help bring visibility to the diversity in family dynamics:

“It felt so wonderful to see little kids asking for a rainbow flag. Not to mention the types of families – single parents, same sex parents, I’m sure several nonbinary parents. … As a whole, I think it’s so beautiful to have events like this.”

BettaWork added that he hopes events like Family Pride Day will normalize discussing LGBTQ issues with children and teens:

“To just see everyone being like, ‘it’s cool, we’re keeping it real with our children, this is what the world is.’ That feels wonderful.”

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