With boisterous cheers and waving rainbow flags along San Francisco’s Market Street, an estimated 1 million people attended the 47th Annual Pride Parade on June 25. Among the 240 parade groups, the Kaiser Permanente contingent numbered more than 1,000 participants.
The organization’s regional leaders, along with family members and friends, held up a “Thrive San Francisco” banner while a festive Kaiser Permanente float followed with more employees waving from atop at the crowd. Participants wearing colorful “Thrive with Pride” shirts cheered on from behind, with many holding up large, blue Thrive balloons. People danced, in synchronized groups, blissfully alone, with babies strapped to chests, or bearing the sticker “Rainbow Is the New Black.” Some wore costumes — such as pink bouffant wigs, 5-inch stilettos, or gauze tutus.
“This event is a celebration of Kaiser Permanente’s joy and values, but it’s also a reflection that we’re living in very turbulent times where inclusion is not necessarily everyone’s top priority,” said Ron Copeland, chief diversity officer for Kaiser Permanente. “So we march to inspire activism and advocacy to increase our definition of inclusion.”
Randy Wittorp, Kaiser Permanente Public Affairs director for the Greater San Francisco Service Area, and his team have worked in partnership with KP Pride, the organization’s employee group for LGBTQ employees and physicians, to organize KP’s participation in the parade for the last 10 years. He has seen first-hand Kaiser Permanente’s history of promoting diversity and inclusion.
“From the very beginning, Kaiser Permanente was created to provide excellent, integrated health care for all people — no matter your economic status or background. This event is an opportunity for our organization to celebrate that great history and tradition,” Wittorp said.
Why Kaiser Permanente Marches
Each person at the Pride parade had their own reasons for marching.
For Linda Tai, senior product analyst consultant for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, participating in the parade was doubly meaningful.
Tai marched in honor of her friend and former colleague who lives in India, where sex between people of the same gender is illegal. He is attempting to emigrate to Canada or the United States so he can live as an openly gay man, and Tai is dedicated to helping him find a job to make getting a visa easier.
Tai also has her own deeply personal reason to march: She was recently diagnosed with a 2-centimeter tumor on her spine, and she’s set to go in for surgery at the Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center in early July.
“I want to march in support of others — and to promote tolerance and acceptance — while I physically can,” Tai said.
And for Norika San Pedro, a transgender nursing assistant at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, the parade was a chance to show the world who she truly is.
San Pedro, originally from the Philippines, transitioned almost a decade ago and faced years of bullying and discrimination — even from members of her own family.
“It’s really an amazing opportunity to be a part of this incredible health care organization. I’m so proud. Kaiser Permanente has great coverage, especially for transgender care,” she said. “For me, the Pride parade is not only a celebration to have the right to love whomever you want to be with. It’s a celebration of life and human rights.”
“Kaiser Permanente is one of the most diverse organizations in the United States, and we stand together to promote inclusion and tolerance,” added Ron Groepper, senior vice president and area manager for the Kaiser Permanente Greater San Francisco Service Area. “Everyone’s presence at the parade is incredibly important. It means you show up and stand for something.”