Colorful flags and signs in hand, San Diegans united in Hillcrest Saturday for the 2019 Pride Parade.
The annual parade began at 10 a.m. at the Hillcrest Pride Flag at University Avenue and Normal Street. The 1.1-mile route proceeded west on University Avenue, turning south on 6th Avenue, then left on Balboa Drive, before ending at Laurel Street.
As always, dozens of colorful floats made their way through the procession. Spectators lined the route, waving and dancing in the spirit of unity, inclusion, and diversity.
Each year, approximately 250,000 spectators turn out for the parade and San Diego Pride weekend, all in support of the LGBTQ community.
This year, the theme of San Diego Pride was “Stonewall 50: A Legacy of Liberation,” marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots – a turning point in the LGBT community’s fight for equality.
Earlier this week, local leaders including San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Councilmember Chris Cate and San Diego Pride executive director Fernando Lopez gathered to reflect on the importance of Pride, and this year's "Stonewall 50" theme.
"This year, we’re really taking intentional time to reflect on the Stonewall generation – their hard work and sacrifice – that gave us everything that we have today and the work that we still have yet to do so that the next generation of our LGTBQ youth are safe and protected," Lopez said.
In addition to remembering the Stonewall Riots, there was special focus put on military service members at Saturday’s big parade.
"It’s in direct support of our transgender troops who’ve served this country since the beginning of this country and continue to serve our country with pride every single day," Lopez told NBC 7 Saturday.
To show opposition to the Trump Administration’s ban on transgender troops, this year's military contingent decided to have active-duty trans service members march at the front of the parade.
"I am a transgender sailor myself," said Elijah Riddle, who currently serves in the U.S. Navy.
Riddle, a soft-spoken sailor, was hesitant to acknowledge the significance of his role in the parade. But, he was sure about the emotion he felt marching through those streets Saturday morning.
"Pride," Riddle told NBC 7.
In a Humvee, the California National Guard participated in the event. Organizers said a couple hundred military members did the same in this year’s San Diego Pride Parade.
For many spectators, the military contingents served as an inspiration and symbol of America’s progress.
"It gave me a sense of inclusion – being a transgender woman – we need to be included into everyday society," said a parade spectator and San Diego resident who goes by the name Coco Chanel. "We’re your neighbor, your family, your friends. Just love us, and have us be a part of your life."
Saturday’s San Diego Pride Parade included two firsts, also linked to the military community. About a half-hour into the parade, a 4 ship, F15 flyover from Cal Guard's Fresno 144th Fighter Wing was conducted in honor of transgender service members.
Parade organizers also held a reenlistment ceremony for a trans military service member at the Hillcrest Pride Flag. The San Diego Women’s Chorus sang the National Anthem to signal the start of the ceremony.
Lopez hoped the reenlistment ceremony sent a clear message.
"We are done with Trump’s anti-transgender rhetoric," he said.
And, while the 2019 San Diego Pride Parade pushed through more barriers as always, Lopez said the fight for LGTBQ equality is far from over.
"We’ve come a long way. In 1969 we were fighting legal and systemic police brutality. And we’re still fighting that in a lot of ways today," Lopez explained. "The origin of pride is the Stonewall Riots and we continue to celebrate our differences, celebrate our diversity here, year after year."
At every turn of the Pride Parade, there certainly was diversity. There was also a sense of peace and love.
Pride Parade participant Irene Herig was among the motorcyclists who helped kick off the procession. She told NBC 7 her adrenaline was flowing, and she was feeling pure joy.
"I’ve been doing this parade since 1994 and I haven’t missed a beat. And I love it," Herig told NBC 7. "San Diego accepts us for who we are; Whether your gay, straight, bi, transgender – whatever you may be – they accept everybody."
"I just love the happy vibe of being yourself," said Maya Archer, cheering on the floats from the sidelines. "I just feel amazing."
"Spread the love around," Chanel added. "Feel good. Everyone should have joy in their life, no matter who they are, who they love. Just share love and joy."