My first gay pride parade… and I marched! Here are the photos and the story, in the form of correspondence that occurred between myself and a friend. This was first published on the web in August 1998.
I don’t know if this stuff makes the news nowadays, but you may have been aware that ’tis the season for gay pride celebrations. On Sunday, I met some friends in NYC and marched behind a Yale banner in the pride parade! The Yale group started out with 3 graduate students, 2 undergrads, and 3 alumni. As we marched though, more and more people joined. We started at 56th street, and by the time we got to 20th, there were about 30 people in our group! It was quite exciting, dancing down 5th Avenue cheered on by 1–2 million people (estimates I saw in the news).
There was confetti, ticker tape, the works. The number of people in the crowd responding specifically to Yale was surprising. Lots of alumni, I guess. Several other students we knew were watching; they hopped the barriers to come up for a chat and a hug, if not to join us.
Apparently, mayor Giuliani’s participation was the source of some controversy. Several fundamentalists in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral held signs criticizing him (that’s polite; essentially they were name-calling) for the new city domestic partner law. On the other political end, twenty people were arrested after chaining themselves together across 5th avenue to block his path. They were part of a group called “Take Back the March” that accuse him of doing too little, too late.
Giuliani defended his record on gay and lesbian rights and complained about the disruption of the parade. “You have the right to protest, make any point that you want to make, but you can’t go in the middle of a parade and block it because you decide that your point is more important than everybody else’s,” the mayor said. [Reuters]
The city block starting at St. Patrick’s Cathedral was apparently reserved especially for fundamentalist protesters, under police protection. There were about a dozen of them, and as many police, on the entire block. A pathetic presence, on the whole. Every other block along the 3.5 mile route was packed with support.
One of the protesters held a sign that said, “You’ll never get our children.” This was funny because the float directly in front of us belonged to the Hetrick-Martin Institute, which is the country’s first gay and lesbian youth group and operates a high school in NYC. On this float was a big, black, lesbian DJ who began chanting “Yo, we got yo’ children!” to the music as the 30 or so teenagers and others representing the Institute danced on all sides of the float.
We didn’t get to see the more interesting groups in the parade, since we were waiting on 56th street for an hour and a half while all the groups ahead of us filed out of other side streets. It was a little depressing during that time… we could hear music and announcements around the corner, but couldn’t see anything. (I did wander around a bit and managed to see the Dykes on Bikes, Dyke on a Trike, and the Times Squares, a gay square-dancing group.) We almost gave up on marching and took a train downtown to spectate. I’m glad we stuck it out though, because once we got moving, it was great fun.