This past weekend marked San Francisco’s 49th Annual LGBT Pride Parade and Celebration and the 50th anniversary commemorating the Stonewall Riots. The theme of this year’s parade and celebration was Generations of Resistance, which aimed to highlight the decades of LGBTQ+ activism, creativity, and advocacy born right here in San Francisco.
Veterans have also played a significant role within the LQBTQ+ community from Army veteran and drag performer, Gilbert Baker, designing and debuting the iconic Rainbow flag in the 1970s to Navy veteran and co-founder of Transgender American Veterans Association, Monica Helms, designing and debuting the transgender-specific flag in 2000.
Since 1974, Swords to Plowshares has served all veterans regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, military branch, era of service, or socioeconomic background. Many of our staff, as well as our clients, have participated in SF Pride over the decades. For the past four years, they have all come together to form a veteran contingent to celebrate SF Pride.
With over 280 contingents including community groups, affinity organizations, city agencies, local businesses, and corporate groups, this year’s celebration was one of the largest ever featuring over 100,000 spectators and making it an ample opportunity for our staff and veteran contingent to inform our LGBTQ+ veterans and service members about our programs and services. Over the course of Pride weekend, we were able to engage with over 300 individuals who wanted to know more information on how we help LGBTQ+ veterans.
Our services include a dedicated weekly support group co-hosted at the SF LGBT Center and our LGBTQ+ Veteran Outreach Project, which helps with securing Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and military discharge upgrades.
“LGBTQ+ veterans are notoriously difficult to access because they are generally hesitant to identify themselves and seek assistance,” said Robert Alexander, Swords to Plowshares’ Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP. “Family, friends, and other service providers are invaluable sources of referrals, which is why spreading the word about the LGBTQ+ Veteran Outreach Project is so critical.”
Swords to Plowshares’ Associate Director for Programs and Operations Steve Culbertson also believes dedicated outreach to the LGBTQ+ community is vital to our mission. “It has been really important for us to participate in SF Pride for a couple of reasons: It gives us the ability to connect with veterans and their family members in a very different manner than our traditional outreach and lets everyone in the community know that we provide support to and for LGBTQ+ veterans. As a long-time member of the San Francisco community, we are demonstrating that we too have pride.”
For more information on our services for LGBTQ+ veterans, please email LGBTQveterans@stp-sf.org.