Photo Credit By Amy Li Berninger
By McKenzi Thi Murphy
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the NYC Pride March took place this Sunday. With an expected turnout of over 4 million people, this is the largest public event the city has ever dealt with (including Times Square on New Year’s Eve).
And while I, your neighborhood lesbian editor-in-chief, have a strong aversion to crowds and loud spaces, I could hardly miss the 50th. With my best friend Amy and my trusty stuffed pig Antoni Gaudi in tow, I ventured out into the blazing sun to show off my pride.
I have been “out” since I was 12 which, living in a small Long Island town, proved to be an interesting experience to say the least. But eight years later, I’d yet to attend even one Pride event. And what better way to start than the largest Pride event Manhattan has ever seen?
We arrived downtown around 10:30, an hour and a half before kickoff, and foolishly I decided I wanted to walk past the Stonewall bar. Undeterred by the congested crowds, I bobbed and weaved around much taller individuals than I and managed to get there unscathed. Of course, inadvertently following a very tall and pale man wearing a rainbow bikini bottom and nothing else seemed to help cut through the crowd a bit. After crossing that off my bucket list, I’ve come to the conclusion that a quick stop at the historical bar need not be a repeat event next year.
After wandering about for an hour, we finally settled in an open spot behind the police barricades: a very sunny spot with no sunscreen on hand and little water. But with the blessing of Southeast Asian genetics and sheer willpower, everything turned out just fine.
What followed was three hours of sheer joy. While the march technically lasted from noon to 9:30 p.m., we only made it through the first two and a half hours before the heat began to take its toll.
Kicking it off, the Sirens Women’s Motorcycle Club of NYC proved to be a crowd favorite. And who doesn’t love queer women in biking leathers? I certainly do. The Sirens have been at the font of the march for over 30 years.
The milestone anniversary meant everyone and their second cousin was in attendance, and the procession itself seemed to be a never-ending rainbowfest. Certainly nothing to complain about. From drag queens of all shapes and colors – including one dressed as a hot pink vanity table complete with oversized tubes of lipstick and mascara – to the gratuitous corporate floats, the march had a little something for everyone.
Being such a publicized event, the (Democrat) politicians of New York all either made personal appearances in the march, or sent a large delegation of supporters armed with banners and handouts. A nice gesture, certainly. I can hardly complain about seeing Sen. Chuck Schumer march past me with a rainbow whistle in his mouth, nor Andrew Cuomo and his trans-inclusive signs. Appearance for the sake of public approval or not, a physical reminder that these politicians now support queer rights when for so long we went ignored or oppressed is greatly appreciated.
That being said, Pride this year had many businesses on obnoxiously loud floats. The pinkwashing (when a company presents itself as LGBTQ-friendly in order to promote itself) of Pride has been an issue for a while now, and I still can’t quite decide where I stand. On one hand, I would have much rather seen more actual queer people and advocacy groups in the places of those loud cell-phone company floats. But on the other, these companies have been pandering to straight people for years and it’s nice to be included. Now if only all these companies donated the profits of their rainbow merchandise to queer charities and organizations rather than just a small portion…
After three hours in the blazing sun, heat exhaustion had started to set in, so we started ambling over to PrideFest just to see what it was all about. It took nearly an hour to fight through the crowds to get from the corner of Eighth Street and Sixth Ave over to 14th and Third. Advice to Pride attendees of the future: stand on the outer side of the march path, because crossing the street to get out is next to impossible.
PrideFest is its own kind of crowded chaos. One huge booth was handing out special-edition Oreos with gender-identity packaging. The mob to grab one, while not violent, still nearly trampled my 4’7” self. But I am now the proud owner of a They/Them Oreo package and a She/Her sticker. They had buttons too. And after almost suffocating in that little throng of people, we decided it was time to leave.
Overly pinkwashed, crowded and hot, sure. But the 50th anniversary march of the Stonewall Riots still brought out that fierce desire to be out and proud of it. Pride 2019 marked the first march for me. And though I never thought it possible, I somehow came out even gayer than when I went in.