Our featured speakers and MC will bring us back to the roots of Pride – as a protest, as a rebellion, as a fight for liberation amidst ongoing and escalating oppression – and offer us inspiration and hope as we continue to fight and thrive. 


Meet our 2023 speakers and MC:

Imani_Rupert-Gordon_1 Square

Keynote Speaker

Imani Rupert-Gordon

Imani Rupert-Gordon is the Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and a prominent leader in social justice and advocacy. Recognized for her influential leadership, she has made significant contributions to the LGBTQ community, particularly in supporting Black women and LGBTQ youth.

Jai Rodriguez Square


Jai Rodriguez

Jai Rodriguez, renowned for his role in “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy,” has become an influential advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, using his platform to promote representation and inclusivity. Through his Broadway career, television appearances, and ongoing projects, Jai continues to inspire and uplift marginalized communities worldwide.

Maria-Schembri Square

Speaker: Supporting LGBTQ Youth

Maria Schembri

Maria Schembri is a dedicated mother, educator, and youth advocate who has spent over two decades teaching and supporting LGBTQIA+ students. As the Program Manager for the Office of Youth Advocacy in SDUSD, she is committed to creating safe spaces and implementing equitable practices to support the well-being of all youth.

Maksym Datsenko Square

Speaker: Seeking Asylum from Anti-LGBTQ Regimes

Maksym (Max) Datsenko

Max is a Ukrainian citizen who found love with his husband Daniil in Moscow, where they confronted legal restrictions due to the absence of same-sex marriage rights. Despite the hostile environment towards the LGBT community, Maksym actively advocates for equal rights, participating in LGBT social network communities.

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Speaker: Reproductive Justice is LGBTQ Justice

Vernita Gutierrez

Vernita is a dedicated community activist with extensive experience advocating for reproductive freedom, LGBTQ+ equality, and various social justice causes in San Diego. Currently, she directs strategic initiatives for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, overseeing public affairs, communications, community engagement, and partnerships, while also serving on multiple boards of social justice and equity-focused organizations and commissions.

Amber St James Square

Speaker: Drag as Liberation

Amber St. James

Amber St. James is a revolutionary activist, award-winning performer, and the First Ever San Diego Mx. Gay and Mx International Pride. With a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and a background in anti-blackness trainings, they have made significant contributions to the LGBTQ+ community through their work, including as a co-founder of Sisters Of St. James Productions, a local drag production company.