Politics mix with Santa Fe Pride rally

·4 min read

Jun. 26—They donned feather boas and rainbow tutus. They danced in the rain, cheered, laughed and proudly displayed their authentic selves.

Santa Fe-area residents and visitors gathered by the hundreds for the annual Pride on the Plaza festival and parade, a celebration of the city's LGBTQ communities.

"This is probably the biggest Pride we've seen in years," said Santa Fe Human Rights Alliance Director Kevin Bowen, an organizer of the event.

A few blocks away, a group outside the state Capitol spoke out against the U.S. Supreme Court's decision a day earlier to overturn a nearly 50-year-old ruling establishing abortion rights in the nation. They were joined by many Pride festival participants who had marched minutes earlier in a rainbow-filled parade to the Plaza carrying clothes hangers and abortion rights signs.

The two events intermingled, with both protesters and Pride-goers wondering what rights might vanish next under a heavily conservative Supreme Court.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham talked about the loss of reproductive rights in many states when she took the stage at the Pride festival.

"I think this is just the tip of the iceberg and things are gonna get worse," Santa Fe native Marissa Aurora said. "I think they're gonna come for same-sex marriage. I think they're gonna come for contraception."

"It's not just women's rights being taken away. ... It's also the rights of trans people, of nonbinary people," said Joycelyn Shroulote, 16, a student at New Mexico School for the Arts.

Shroulote initially planned to go to the Pride festival — to have fun and be a kid. Instead, she said, and her classmate Julia Lee, also 16, felt a call to action and headed to the Capitol to protest.

"Knowing that my basic health care has been taken away by a bunch of old, white men who don't have uteruses ... it's terrifying," Lee said. "If we are raped, we might have to carry the children of somebody who we did not give consent."

"It's just, like, terrifying to think that this is what we're growing up in, and to have to keep fighting for something that our grandparents fought for a long time ago," Shroulote added.

While outrage over Friday's ruling and concerns about what rights the high court might whittle away in the future brought a sense of gravity to Santa Fe Pride, that did not stop tenacious revelers from celebrating the city's diversity and inclusive spirit.

Neither did the heavy monsoon rains dampen their resolve.

Mayor Alan Webber dedicated Saturday's festival to Shontez "Taz" Morris, a local artist and Meow Wolf employee who died in March at age 43.

"The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities are an integral part of the vibrant culture and community of Santa Fe," the mayor told the colorfully clad audience.

Leeann Faní, 33, said that is part of the reason they moved to Santa Fe from Oklahoma.

Faní, who uses "they" and "them" pronouns, began a gender transition process using hormones about a year ago.

"I have days where I feel like both genders, and I have days where I feel like neither, and I have days where I feel comfortable being masculine and comfortable being feminine separately," Faní said.

They had a hard time finding acceptance in Oklahoma, Faní added, and even lost custody of their three children because of their transition.

"Going through this experience, I knew that I was going to have to be willing to give up my entire family, my children included," Faní said. "They don't want to answer questions that my children are going to ask about me. You know — why Mom doesn't look like a lady anymore."

Lara Hash, a stepmother to three girls, said she wants to make sure they knew they will be loved no matter who they choose to be. Still, Hash added, she knows there are many people who don't share this way of thinking.

"There are a lot of scare tactics out there to try to confuse people into thinking that advocating for equal rights is somehow dangerous to children," Hash said, "but I believe that it's empowering for children to know that they have a voice. To know that they can show up and their rights will be respected."

Lujan Grisham urged Saturday's Pride crowd to take their anger to the polls — and vote Democratic.

But some said they worry voting blue might not be enough to prevent their rights from being stripped away.

"Voting only does so much," Aurora said. "Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are working in the favor of human rights, and so we really need a system that has more than two major parties."

She added, "There are ways that communities can come together to protect ourselves, and I think queers, trans people, women have been doing this for thousands of years, and we're not going to stop."