The Last Sunday in June: NY Shows its Pride

Happy Pride Month! This June, New York City has been host to a ton of incredible events—how have you been celebrating? Did you attend the Pride Rally at the Central Park SummerStage? Rally to protect homeless LGBT youth? Spend an evening  around the piano at Marie’s Crisis or watch a cabaret at the Duplex? Catch one of the final performances of Next Fall at the Helen Hayes Theatre with our Columbia discount? (It closes on July 4th so hurry!)  Cheer as Sean Hayes and Kristen Chenoweth got back at Newsweek magazine during the Tony Awards?  At the very least, I hope you started following the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck on Twitter.

I decided that the very best way to celebrate was to attend NYC Pride’s ultimate, climactic event—which is how I found myself spending Sunday afternoon in the Village, surrounded by one of the noisiest, happiest, most colorful crowds I’ve ever encountered in Manhattan. The New York City Pride Parade, for those of you who don’t know or have never experienced it, takes place on the last Sunday in June every year to commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969. (Okay, mini history/civil rights lesson: in 1969, a riot broke out at the Stonewall Inn—a popular gay bar in the Village—after a police raid. The homosexual community in New York had been mostly underground until that point–but something finally broke that June 28th, and the community banded together and fought back with more riots, protests, and demonstrations. The riots are considered by many to be the start of the gay rights movement in the US, and every year since 1969, the LGBTQIA community has come out to march, to dance, and to celebrate those first brave steps toward civil rights. For more history, click here.) But I digress.

The parade route for the 2010 march began on 5th Avenue and 36th Street, but I decided I would set up along the route in the heart of the Village—just near Stonewall Place—and watch as the parade made its triumphant entrance. I hopped on the 1 train at 96th street around noon (and kept my fingers crossed that I’d make it in time, what with the absurd construction delays). The train was filled with the usual mix of bored-looking locals and lost-looking tourists, but by the time the train reached Penn Station, nearly everyone on my car was decked out in rainbow colors or carrying a flag and brimming with excitement.

We poured off the train at Christopher Street, and I began to make my way through the labyrinth of crowd-controlling police barricades, searching for a good vantage point from which to watch. After threading my way precariously through sidewalks crowded with vendors hawking everything from whistles to water and revelers dressed up, dressed down, and some even undressed (well, partially, anyway), I found a great spot near a group of college students wearing “Legalize Gay” t-shirts. And then the parade began.

From the first rumblings of the motorcade to the whistles, cheers, bullhorns, and Lady Gaga remixes, the Pride Parade was an event not to be missed. As the afternoon wore on, the crowd swelled, the costumes became more extravagant, and the energy and enthusiasm rose faster than the temperature. The marchers came in all shapes and sizes–some came in drag and some came in uniform. Political figures campaigned and citizens carried signs. The parade observers sang along as marchers danced to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Whether they came to the parade on purpose or happened to be be passing by and stopped to join in, everyone seemed to be having a tremendous amount of fun. If you missed this year’s parade, I urge you to try to make it next year—there really is nothing more beautiful or empowering than being part of a crowd that celebrates your individuality, where strangers meet each other and hug because they can, where non-traditional families are the norm, and where words like “traditional” and “normal” get stampeded by limitless, unbounded freedom of expression. Whether or not you made it to the parades or rallies or pride events this month, you don’t have to let the celebration end on the last day of June. Let’s make every month pride month—there’s no reason not to celebrate the right to be who you are–regardless of sex, gender, or orientation–every day of the year.

For a slide show of photos from the parade, click here.

Kay Prins SoA‘12

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