SAN DIEGO (KGTV)-- San Diego Pride festivities kicked off in the Hillcrest neighborhood Friday afternoon at the iconic Gay Pride Flag on University Ave. and Normal St. Thousands celebrated this year's theme, Stonewall 50: A Legacy of Liberation.
The Glitz and Glam and the fabulous outfits at Pride are a product of dark times.
"In 1969, being gay was considered a mental illness," San Diego Pride Executive Director Fernando Lopez said. "And the LGBT community was persecuted and prosecuted through legal and social systemic oppression and discrimination."
In the summer of 1969, New York Police raided the Stonewall Inn, a place known as a safe spot for the LGBT community. Veronica Zerrer remembers watching the violence on the news.
"When Stonewall happened, I was 12 years old, and I was just hitting puberty," Zerrer said.
It was a turning point in her life because back then, she says she was hiding.
"My name was Ronald," Zerrer said. "In fact, I have a really interesting story. I grew up being called Ronnie."
Ronnie served in the U.S. Army for two decades and retired as a Major. The next year in 1999, Ronnie became Veronica.
"Before I came out, I tried to be the person that I thought my family and society thought I should be, instead of what was inside my heart," Zerrer said.
Fifty years later, San Diego Pride is honoring the rioters at Stonewall, who stood up against police prejudice.
"This year, we are 'Stonewall 50: A legacy of liberation.' And the celebrations today, tomorrow and all weekend long are really going to reflect back in honor of our Stonewall generation. We'll talk about the legacy that we are all a part of, and what we need to do to recommit ourselves for the next generation," Lopez said.
It is a big 'thank you' to their courage that inspired future generations.
"Because you're not allowed by society to be who you really are, you have to almost 'perform' gender. Whereas right now, I'm expressing my gender," Zerrer said.