By: Al Ballesteros
(West Hollywood, CA) The LA Gay Pride parade and festival produced by CSW or Christopher Street West will be leaving the City of West Hollywood according to the organization. Produced since 1979 in West Hollywood, CSW is one of the largest LGBT pride celebrations in the country. West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran says, “CSW sent a letter telling us that they were not going to return to West Hollywood.” According to the letter, CSW will be looking for a new place to hold the festivities beginning in 2021 and that location is not yet known.
As background information, Christopher Street West is the organization that produces the CSW LA Pride parade and festival. It is a separate entity from the City of West Hollywood. The City of West Hollywood collaborates closely with CSW as the host city and arranges for city support of the events. West Hollywood grants permission and permits to CSW to produce the events within its boundaries. The City of West Hollywood also provides financial support of the CSW festivities. Councilmember Duran says West Hollywood kicked in $2 million in 2019 and was prepared to provide $3 million this year.
Lots of questions arise from the CSW decision: Where will CSW host its events? What location could possibly mirror West Hollywood where an estimated 40% of the residents are LGBTQ people and where numerous community businesses and well-known establishments line the streets of the parade route? West Hollywood is known nationally and internationally as a power center of the LGBT community just as are Greenwich Village in New York and the Castro District in San Francisco. Because of the alignment of the festival in the City of West Hollywood, where will CSW find the same visibility it enjoys in West Hollywood? Will CSW find a city willing to provide the monetary support equal to that given by the City of West Hollywood for all these years? Finally, what will the City of West Hollywood do?
“I don’t know where CSW is going,” says Duran. “I wish them well.” What I do know is we (West Hollywood) will continue to have a Pride celebration on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood because we always have.”
Duran says they’ve started a process of reaching out to the community to have conversations about what pride will look like in West Hollywood. At least in the short-term, he says West Hollywood will have to assess what it can do for a Pride celebration given the Covid-19 pandemic depending on the extent it continues and is a threat in 2021. He says the celebration may be just a simple street fair or if Covid-19 is more under control at that time, they could think of expanding from there. If things are not under control, there may not be much of anything going on with respect to Pride in 2021.
But where will CSW go? These areas could include Hollywood, East Hollywood, Downtown Los Angeles or other neighborhoods. Some believe it may be really hard to set up a pride festival in various parts of Los Angeles County that might not be as welcoming to the LGBTQ community or to a large event. “Just because we live in a Democratic county does not mean that everyone loves the gay flag. We lost Prop 8,” says Duran.
Duran believes West Hollywood is the natural place for a pride celebration to be held. He says there is still a lot of work to do around the LGBT movement with things being very dynamic right now. This being the case, Duran believes a lot of people who may share common interests in fighting back racism and police brutality may not share common interests with respect to LGBT issues. These dynamics may present some challenges for CSW to think through as they plan a new venue.
The other hurdle for CSW would be financial support and this could be a huge issue. The City of Los Angeles with all of its deficits and having to cut back on city government as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic might not be able to provide the same level of funding for CSW as it enjoyed in the city of West Hollywood. The same may be true for other cities.
“I just don’t think they (CSW) thought it through,” says Duran. “That’s ok. It’s done now. They walked. And to be honest, I think for a lot of people in the City of West Hollywood it was a sigh of relief…and we can start planning pride as it should be, instead of the constant flailing around CSW, the music festivals and the $30 admission fees, long lines, etc.”