New York gay pride parade marches toward 50th year with new purpose

Thousands marched, emboldened by recent events: ‘We still have people who don’t want to bake wedding cakes for us’

A detachment of “black dykes on trikes” were to the fore as the New York pride march began on Sunday, a year short of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the event now agreed to have created the modern gay rights movement.

The 2018 march was led by the tennis legend Billie Jean King and the transgender advocate Tyler Ford. The actor Cynthia Nixon, a contender to be governor of New York state, was present, as was her rival Andrew Cuomo, as thousands of marchers in rainbow colors celebrated LGBT identity in Greenwich Village and up the canyon of Fifth Avenue.

Many marchers said that the gay movement had begun to find a new purpose, after a succession of legislative victories removed many of the most overt aspects of sexual or gender discrimination in American society.

“I would argue that our coming out has never been more important than it is right now,” Nixon said in a video message. “Whether we are lesbian or gay or transgender or Muslim or Mexican or any one of a number other categories I could name, we are allies united by our otherness.”

The candidate neatly captured the newfound purpose for a march that some say has come close in recent years to becoming just another commercialised “event”, akin to Halloween or Valentine’s Day.

The vice-president, , has supported gay conversion therapy. Donald Trump has on transgender people in the military. The presence of such men in the White House has given the movement new energy, said Danielle Diaz, visiting with girlfriends from Peekskill and standing outside the Stonewall Inn.

“Pence does not support gay rights at all,” Diaz said. “From the beginning, gay pride has been a protest – against police brutality, against violence, against [violence against] LGBT people, against black people, it’s always stood for what’s right. So this year it’s against Trump, and against border policy for sure … and all the craziness that’s happening.”

Diaz added: “We want everybody to feel accepted and welcome no matter what they are or where they’re from or what they identify as.”

Other attendees said victories such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2015 did not necessarily mean parity had been secured. This month, the supreme court ruled in favor of a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, on religious grounds.

“Even though we have gay marriage, we still have people who don’t want to bake wedding cakes for us,” said David Jones, from the Bronx. “So if we bat our eye, it could all go backwards and that’s not where we want to go.”

Jones’s niece, Tiffany Baskerville, said she did not identify as LGBT. But the key was to speak out, she said, as an activist. “It’s not like, ‘Hey, we want a gay president.’ It’s like we want somebody who can understand and speak for everybody. We’re not just gay first, but human first.”

Pamela Meyer, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said she had not had the good luck to be gay. She was visiting to support her gay sisters and brothers. “I think straights are incredibly stupid about a lot of stuff,” she said. “Race, gender, everything. They got it all and they want to keep it.”

Others, however, claimed a paradox: that by reducing the concept of gay pride to a march, an anthem and a rainbow flag for people from all sections of society to support, a sense of community had become undone.

“I miss the days of the bars, with hundreds of our people in one location,” said Jim Cook, from Pennsylvania. “Now a gay bar is like any straight bar. Mainstream. With all the equality and all the rights it just seems like we lost a little of our identity. Sometimes it feels like we’ve become straight.”

Among slightly younger gay men, like Julian Cavalier, the messages were more specific. “I love drag,” he said, “I love everything that drag stands for. It’s outlet. It’s our way to feel accepted. Drag means acceptance.”

Street vendors with rainbow flags and large buttons carrying slogans said pride was good for business, bringing in at least $1,000 in the day.

As Sylvester’s I Need You blared from a nearby boombox, Anna Thomas, 25, a bisexual woman from New Jersey, said gay pride in 2018 meant the culmination of everything the movement had accomplished.

“There’s still work to be done,” she said, “but I like it that gay, straight, bi, trans, confused, everybody comes together here. It’s a beautiful spirit. You can get laid, but I’m more here for the party.”

As the lesbian bikers on their trikes and hogs made their way down Christopher Street, some in attendance wondered whether the location would mean as much in 10 years’ time as it did 10 or 20 years ago.

“Italians no longer live in Little Italy,” said Sean Edwards. “Will gays still live in the West Village? You don’t have to live in the West Village to be safe now. So will gay pride just become symbolic like St Patrick’s Day?”

It was beautiful, he said, to see the utopian vision of humanity expressed by the march, on one day a year at least: “Everybody gets to be their truest self.”

The age range of attendees was wide. Tasha Georgiades, 11, said she had come along so she could “wear the rainbow colors”.

by Edward Helmore
Source – The Guardian