Sunday, June 26, 2016

NYC Pride Flashback circa 2007

Happy Pride Weekend!

I know June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month for most of the country, but being a Northeasterner at heart, the last weekend in June has always been reserved for "The Pride Event": New York City Pride Parade.

Being out since 2004, I had always imagined myself walking in the NYC Pride Parade. My fantasy revolved around images I had accumulated from movies, books, and music videos. You know the ones-stereotypical depictions of butch lesbians on motorcycles and scantily clad gay men waving rainbow flags-I wanted to be in the thick of it!

Unfortunately, I could not manage to scoop up any willing participants on this excursion, so come Sunday morning I headed to the New Haven train station by my lonesome. Destination: Grand Central. I am definitely someone who can "pass" and my attire reflected that as well. En route to NYC, I looked like a typical college student heading to The City for the day. I was equipped with a bagel and coffee, very little money (in fact JUST enough for my round trip train ticket and a $5 meal in New York), and a spunky attitude!

Being cognizant of the mayhem that would soon ensue, I arrived VERY early. So early, in fact, the volunteers were still setting up the event. That is when I first noticed the traffic barricades blocking off the sidewalk...and when it dawned on me that most people don't assume they can just show up to one of the largest pride events in the world and expect to just simply MARCH with the parade. But, then again, I'm not most people. 

I casually usurped the barricades and starting walking up 7th Ave, in the street. It took approximately 27 seconds before a very militant lesbian approached me with a clipboard and asked if I needed help. In my youthful arrogance I simply responded I was there to march in the parade. She scoffed and asked if I was registered with a group. I slowly took a sip of coffee and explained I was not registered with a group. She all but laughed at me and said I could not march if I was not registered, before marching away herself. I smiled and affirmed: I am marching in this parade.
I peered across 7th Ave and saw a group of 20-somethings in a vibrant and excited huddle. Unlike most of the other groups that were forming, these individuals were not dressed alike and, therefore, made it easier for me to sneak in and pretend I was with them. In a matter of minutes, a woman shouted, "Who wants to carry a sign?!" 
I thought, Here's my chance! If I'm carrying a sign, I can't be told I can't march!
"I do!" I exclaimed and hurried over. I cannot for the life of me remember what my sign said and unfortunately it did not survive the many moves I've had since 2007. But, that sign was my ticket to my very gay fantasy, so I held on for dear life. 

At precisely noon, we kicked off from 36th and 7th towards The Village and the excitement pulsed immediately. I had no idea who I was marching with, but I was overwhelmed by the proud energy pounding from the onlookers and marchers alike. 

We hadn't walked very far, when we stopped and I heard a man speak from one row ahead of me. In a dizzying moment of realization, the pieces start to connect and I realized who, exactly, I was marching with. I was marching with the New York City Council and quite literally one person separated me and Mayor Bloomberg!

These are pictures from NYC Pride 2007. I was one of the many people holding signs announcing important political and legal dates in gay history. 
My head was spinning. It was surreal to know I was actually participating in this event and I had done it with nearly no preparation. As the march continued, my casual attire became more "Gay-a-fied" as I collected rainbow Mardi Gras beads, buttons, stickers, and flags. By the time we ended at Christopher Street, I was covered in rainbow goodness from head to toe-never mind my sign. Having spent hours marching in the heat, I was in need of a subway pronto. I stopped and asked a cop where I could find the nearest subway station and was informed that all participants of the parade got to ride for free!

I lived off that Pride high for weeks after, telling anyone who would listen about my adventure! The train ride back to CT was entertaining to say the least as I garnered looks from everyone from elderly couples to children to other queer 20-somethings who smiled with solidarity.

So while I was not able to participate in today's Pride events, my flashback holds special significance for not only the queer in me, but the activist in me.