Pride’s New Direction

news-2biggerAnnual Pride celebration gets new management, route and an environmental cause

Would people treat the Earth better if they thought of it as a lover and not a mother?  Would the environmental movement be more enticing if it were presented with more of a passion from down under?

Those are two of the questions asked by former porn star and current performance artist Annie Sprinkle and her longtime partner, UCSC art professor Beth Stephens, who will debut their “Ecosexual” drop of water float at the Santa Cruz Pride Parade on Sunday, June 7.

“We’re trying to change the metaphor from Earth as a mother to Earth as lover,” says Stephens, as she works on the giant shimmering blue drop on wheels at the UCSC art department. “We want to show that humans need to realize they are in a more mutual relationship with the Earth, rather than a domineering or controlling or separate relationship. It’s an equal relationship.”

They will show movies in their float, give short tours of its compact inside, talk about their love for the planet and pass out literature and stickers that say things like: “water gets me wet.”

The pair’s performance art has deep ecological roots. In 2008, rather than marry each other, they both married the Earth, in a ceremony at UCSC’s Shakespeare Glen. They have written a book called “Assuming the Ecosexual Position” (due out next spring), made a documentary about the destruction of part of West Virginia called Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story and have two rainbow-colorful websites, and

“As far as the parade, we’re trying to have fun,” says Stephens. “We’re trying to get queers interested in environmental issues. Everyone has to drink water.”

It’s an attitude the environmental movement could use more of, she believes.

“If you look to the future and think the planet is going to collapse, it’s hopeless,” says Stephens. “How can you go into the future like that? As a professor I feel really responsible for making my students want to engage the future. The landscapes they face may be the most difficult anyone has had to face, environmentally, economically, politically. We are trying to add a lot of fun and humor and love to address issues that are not fun or humorous. So many approaches to the environment are depressing, so who is going to do anything about that?”

Some of the funding for the project has come from a $20,000 grant to Stephens from the Rydell Visual Arts Fund, and they plan to bring it to the San Francisco Pride Parade next, even though Stephens says it has gotten too commercial.

“I mean, honestly, I don’t think one person or group—unless they are extraordinarily wealthy—can do very much,” Stephens says. “But if they join together, a few people can spark a movement.”

They aren’t the only new addition to Pride this year: the whole event has changed hands, leaving the Diversity Center, which has organized it for the past 25 years of its 40-year existence. It is now its own organization, with a website at, a different parade route, and new location for the celebration afterward.

The parade will leave from the Clock Tower at 11 a.m. and travel along Pacific Avenue to Cathcart, Cedar and Lincoln streets (the Farmers Market site), where the music, booths and events go from noon to 4 p.m.

There will be food trucks, stage shows, merchant booths, karaoke and dancing.

“The Diversity Center wants to focus on its core programs for seniors, youth, Latinos, Latinas,” says Pride director Dana Izzo, who describes the split with the Diversity Center as amicable. The Center is still a sponsor of the parade and will have a booth there. “This gives Pride an opportunity to go out on its own.”

She says Pride parades in other cities have their own nonprofit organizations and her goal is to raise enough funds to pay some of the volunteers who work all year to put the parade together.

“This is a rebirth for us,” says Izzo.

The theme of this year’s annual celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community is “transforming, transitioning and transcending,” something that represents both the community and the new direction of the gathering.

With a turnout of more than 6,000 people, it is the largest Pride gathering on the Central Coast. The entertainment includes a reimagined Rat Pack and boy band quartet from Oakland called the Singing Bois, doing new takes on barbershop, pop, R&B, doo-wop and jazz standards.

Honorees include grand marshalls Jennifer Hastings, M.D. and Alejandra Santiago. Hastings founded the Transgender Health Care Program in 2005, and Santiago is the transgender woman who launched the transgender program at the Westside Health Center.

The parade will also honor Alisun Thompson, the newly elected school board member for Santa Cruz City Schools, and Rev. Tino Cordova, the only openly gay reverend in Watsonville, who has fought for LGBTQ rights.

PHOTO: Performance artist Annie Sprinkle and her partner Beth Stephens, a UCSC art professor, have built a giant water-drop float for this year’s Santa Cruz Pride Parade, in the hopes of sparking an environmental movement that is fun, not depressing.

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