This is 30: On why I march

Ray Dang is a senior signage and environmental graphic designer at Metro. If he looks a little familiar to you, well, we’re not surprised – you might have seen his face plastered on the back or the side of a Metro bus in one of our ads!  

When he isn’t representing Metro and its services to the public, Ray is also a key member of Out@Metro, the agency’s LGBTQIA+ employee resource group. Read on to learn about the intersections between queerness and transit that shape the club’s purpose.  

Dang surrounded by OUT@Metro swag. Photo by Aurelia Ventura.

I’ve wanted to work at Metro ever since I saw Metro’s creative director speak at a design talk. The agency had gone through a major rebrand in 2003, and he talked about the importance of making the agency more friendly and inviting, reflecting the color and diversity of Los Angeles as opposed to a faceless government service. There’s an important connection between design and public transit all over the world––its touchpoints and wayfinding are part of a larger design system that guides people on familiar journeys as well as brand-new ones. And Metro’s rebrand and redesign was such a friendly breath of fresh air for transit in LA. I started as an intern in 2007 and have been here ever since.  

Queer people have long sought the connection and safety that a community brings. For many of us, that means being part of the urban culture of big cities and taking public transit. In LA, transit can feel like a communal and sometimes countercultural way to get around. LGBTQ folks also lean to the progressive side, and buses, trains, and bikes are more sustainable ways to get around this traffic-choked city in the era of climate change. I also think, almost by necessity, that a lot of queer people see the world through an idealistic lens – desiring change, equality, and wanting to build a better world where we’re accepted. I think that kind of energy attracts many queer people working in the government, non-profit, urban planning, and sustainability fields which all fall under the umbrella of public transit.   

Over the last sixteen years I’ve worked for the agency, Metro has become a more inclusive and diverse place to work – not just in the faces of the workforce, but also in terms of its policies. I think we have a more nuanced understanding of the fact that we’re an inseparable seam in this diverse fabric of LA, and that everything we do affects millions that call this region home. 

Metro had been participating in the Pride parade as far back as 1999, but Out@Metro, our LGBTQIA+ employee resource group, didn’t get going until 2014. I volunteered to be the group’s graphic designer but gradually became more involved over time. I wasn’t out in high school, and my school didn’t start a queer club until the year after I graduated. I sometimes wonder how different things could have been if there had been one. In college, by contrast, I met a lot of great friends in my college queer clubs, which made me feel less alone in big environments and helped me to blossom socially.  

Out@Metro’s biggest event has always been marching in the Pride Parade. When you’re providing a service to ten million people, you receive a lot of public criticism (often justified), but the Pride Parade is the total opposite of that. Never would I have thought I’d hear so many people scream “We love Metro <3 !” with their arms grasping for whatever TAP cards or tchotchkes we could hand out. It’s an amazing and affirming experience. And I love that we get to be friendly and visibly queer faces out there for our enthusiastic and queer riders. 

My first time marching with Metro at Pride was in 2016. We had a big crew that year, and I remember feeling that we needed to look more coordinated on the route. With no budget for printing shirts, I suggested that we all wear Metro safety vests. I thought they would make us a bright and vibrant presence on the parade. We also managed to get thousands of TAP cards to give out on that day that I had the pleasure of designing.  

Metro’s 2016 Pride TAP card designed by Dang.

Rocking out at the parade, 2016

But no one could have anticipated what it felt like to wake up on the morning of the parade and hear about the Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting that had happened just hours before. It put an ominous pall over the parade and raised the anxiety level for everyone there. Yet the fact that our colleagues, our riders, our fans, and our community came out that morning to show our queer faces in public in spite of such a horrific event filled me with somber pride. That event, and recent renewed hostility against our community, make it all the more important that we show up and march. 

Want to join in the action? Come cheer for us at the 53rd Annual LA Pride Parade! It takes place on Sunday, June 11th at 11am You can get there by connecting to the Metro B (Red) Line and exiting at the Hollywood/Highland or Hollywood/Vine stations. And don’t forget to stop by the Metro Pride Selfie tent in the Pride Village on June 9 & 10 at LA Pride in the Park at LA State Historic Park!  

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