By Gabrielle Mix | Special to the LB Indy
After May Gray, the sun finally showed its bright face for the first weekend of June, a month dedicated to the celebration of Gay Pride.
In the warm ocean breeze, rainbow flags waved on Laguna’s beaches and streets as locals and visitors alike gathered to kick off Pride Month.
The Laguna Beach L.G.B.T.Q. Heritage and Culture Committee organized a weekend full of events, many of which were open to supporters of any age. From a beach party with the DJ Perry Twins at West Street to drag shows at the Boom Boom Room, the weekend celebrated and honored the lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning community with the essence of Laguna in every festivity.
“We see it as a destination pride event for visitors,” said Chris Tebbutt, Co-Founder of Laguna’s L.G.B.T.Q. Heritage and Culture Committee.
With its sunny weather, beautiful beaches, artistic influences and noted restaurants, Laguna is a prime location for visitors to come and enjoy themselves and celebrate Pride. Although this year’s Pride event was celebrated with positivity and excitement, Tebbutt said “I would say the community has always been welcoming but there was a period of time that the [L.G.B.T.Q.] community felt marginalized.”
With a goal to acknowledge and credit the Gay Community for its many contributions to the city in a more prominent way again, Tebbutt co-founded the L.G.B.T.Q. Heritage and Culture Committee with Craig Cooley in May 2017. The committee is comprised of leaders from City Council, Chamber of Commerce, Visit Laguna, Susi Q and others.
Tebbutt said the reason the committee was formed was “because we noticed that the visibility of the gay community had waned over the years.”
After 15 years of living in New York, Tebbutt returned to Laguna and saw how different it was. Having recently started a family with his husband, Tebbutt wanted to assure that the city would be a welcoming place for them.
“I found out that these various organizations in town were just as excited to do something as I was. The group seemed to be ready,” he said.
In the last year, the Committee set a proclamation to declare the month of June as L.G.B.T.Q. Heritage and Culture Month forevermore.
In addition, it influenced the city to more visibly honor the gay community. Over the last year, it has participated for the first time in the Patriot’s Day Parade, has installed a L.G.B.T.Q. art exhibit at the Susi Q and has celebrated gay history through public art in the form of a monumental bench on Mountain Road.
Last year, Laguna participated in OC Pride’s March and hosted a one-day event, but this year the committee wanted to create something bigger so they organized three days of dancing, performances and celebration from June 1 to 3.
Henry Poulos of Laguna said, “Pride means coming out and having fun.” He attended the West Street Beach event with a group of friends to enjoy the sun and show his pride.
Aside from its extension from one day to an entire weekend, this year was also different because more local hotels and businesses participated. Tebbutt said unofficial Pride events were hosted by various businesses, vendors participated at the dance pavilion and storefronts hung their flags and posters all over town.
“It’s a nice change of participation for the community because what’s important for the gay community is to know that they’re welcome and to feel invited,” Tebbutt said.
Ruby Kaura, an 18-year-old woman who attended the West Street Beach Party came out as bisexual just this year. “It’s really nice to get to know a new community and people who face the same struggles as me,” she said.
Kaura said, “what Pride means to me is not being afraid to tell people that you love someone who is not of the opposite gender, that you’re confident in who you are and that you can support others in their adventure.”
Laguna Beach Pride encouraged not only L.B.G.T.Q. voices but any supporters and impassioned people to come celebrate. “It’s not just for the gay community; it’s actually for everyone. We want our friends and our allies and anyone who would enjoy the feeling of self-expression,” Tebbutt said.
“Pride means a lot of things to different people. There are people who have been fighting for policy change and equality for many years, so it’s a march, and then there are the people who feel Pride as a way to celebrate and be free to be who you are,” he said.
Summing up the spirit of the weekend, Tebbutt said, “it transcends [political] policy, for me, and speaks to the policy of self-expression and love, and honoring our residents and our visitors.”
This story was updated June 9.
Correction: In the June 8 article “Laguna Celebrates Pride Month,” one of the organizer’s names was misspelled. He is Chris Tebbutt.