Pride Month has officially arrived, and as we look eagerly to the plethora of festivities on the docket for this June, it’s worth platforming and probing the history of one of San Francisco’s chief queer arts organizations: the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band.
Slated to perform at multiple Pride events this June, the SF LGFB has since ensconced itself as an irreplaceable component the city’s queer cultural landscape since its founding in 1978. The SF LGFB emerged both in opposition to singer and bigot Anita Bryant’s noxious campaign against queer folk and in response to the need for music at San Francisco’s Gay Liberation March, the parade which, by the mid 1970s, had been renamed and became the Pride Parade we know today. The organization was the first of its kind, after its founding becoming the first openly queer music group in the world.
Its founder, queer music trailblazer Jon Reed Sims, would go on to create the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (also the first group of its kind). Serendipitously, San Francisco Magazine features Chris Verdugo, the current executive director of the SF GMC, on its summer issue and in its list of the city’s influential LGBTQ+ voices.
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Almost instantly did the Freedom Band meteor to the forefront of Pride and queer arts and culture more broadly in California, traveling in 1979 to Los Angeles and Santa Cruz to perform at their respective Pride Parades. In 1993, the band was catapulted to even greater heights and became a national voice for queer artistic excellence upon being formally invited to perform at then President-Elect Bill Clinton’s Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C.
The group continued to make waves through the 2000s and 2010s, making appearances at both Santa Clara’s Super Bowl 50 celebration in 2016 and at Oakland’s Women’s March in 2017.
Given their expansive pedigree and profound cultural influence, it was time for San Francisco to formally honor the SF LGFB. In 2018, SF Major London Breed signed an ordinance legally certifying the Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band as the official band of both the City of San Francisco and San Francisco County.
Having endured the travails of COVID-19, the band returns this June in full swing with multiple live performances across the Bay Area. On June 1st, the band helped inaugurate Pride Month at Twin Peak’s historic Pink Triangle Illumination and will visit San Mateo’s County Fair Family Pride Day this Sunday, June 5th.
The last weekend of June will find the group bringing their incomparably exuberant spirit to every major Pride parade, including Friday’s Trans March, Saturday’s Dyke March, and - of course - Sunday’s Pride Parade. Check out the full calendar with the rest of their 2022 schedule here.
The SF LGFB is one of the city’s most historically significant beacons of queer joy and cultural self-representation. You can help them continue their legacy by making a donation or by supporting them at the many Pride shindigs and revels coming up.
Photography by: Sarah Dao/Unsplash