LOS ANGELES - Pride has been celebrated in Los Angeles since 1970 and draws members and supports of the LGBTQ+ community from all over the world. With political tensions rising across the country, many first-time pride-goers are stepping out to show solidarity with the queer community.
Native Angeleno Gillian Cornelius came out as bisexual at 20 years old. Born and raised in the valley, West Hollywood held a particularly special place in her heart. She considered it "the happiest place on Earth — better than Disneyland." The first time she saw two men holding hands in public there, she felt a switch flip.
"It was magic, it was absolutely magical," she said. "Even now when I think about it, I get goosebumps, and my eyes get a little welled with tears, you know? Seeing it in public, seeing people feel free to be themselves, there’s nothing like it."
Now 53 years old, there’s one local experience she’d never been a part o — the world-famous celebration in West Hollywood, WeHo Pride. She said with so much hate directed at the LGBTQ+ community recently, she felt a sense of duty to publicly stand with her peers.
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"Go where you know you’re going to be fully accepted," she said. "Enjoy that feeling if you haven’t already. It’s so important."
18-year-old UCLA student Daphne Partridge had also never experienced Pride prior to 2023. The Boston native realized she was part of the queer community in middle school, but didn’t feel comfortable fully embracing it at her Catholic high school.
"I didn't officially come out to my friends until the summer after senior year," Patridge said. "I think for high school I was honestly worried about making people uncomfortable because when you're in an all-girls school, you're in locker rooms, you're in changing rooms. I think I was very aware of the fact that if people knew that I was also attracted to women, that they would then feel uncomfortable."
Being part of the queer community wasn’t something that was encouraged in her hometown, and she felt inspired by how it was embraced in LA. "I think people are much more open here. Open in a sense that people are more outwardly expressive of their sexuality, whereas I think at home it was just something you knew about people. It wasn't something that was sort of talked about a whole lot," she said. "I feel much less self-conscious about it and less like it's something I need to hide."
On an overcast Sunday, they joined thousands of revelers on Santa Monica Boulevard to fully take in their first WeHo Pride parade.
"This is everything I wanted — I’m so happy," Patridge said along the parade route, smiling.
Stories like these inspire event organizers like Jeff Consoletti, Executive Producer of WeHo Pride and OUTLOUD. "It’s amazing! It’s exciting! It’s an honor, right? What better place to come to your first pride than West Hollywood?"
"There is just so much vibrancy in what the queer community does here," he added.
West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne is the second queer woman to serve on the West Hollywood City Council and the first out LGBTQ Iranian Mayor in the world. She hopes that every Pride celebration encourages more people to take part.
"It feels uplifting, it feels so good to hear our allies cheering us on. It feels safe," she said. "It’s community coming together to celebrate each other because the rest of the year, we’re not as celebrated. We’re constantly targets of hate about who we are."
Cornelius said she wished she would have participated in Pride sooner, but it’s never too late.