Pride weekend in New York City is one of the greatest celebrations there is. That’s my thoroughly impartial opinion, clearly. I was talking with one of my coworkers while we walked down Fifth Avenue in the Pride Parade (the main event of the weekend) on Sunday, and he said that he cried the first time he attended Pride in New York City. He’s from the Midwest, and that many queer people in one place? It doesn’t happen in many other places, and definitely not where he’s from, in the middle of the United States.
It’s overwhelming, when you think about it. When you’re in the parade, you get to walk down over thirty blocks of streets. When you start walking, around 40th Street, you’re at the top of a very slight hill, and you see, in front of you, thirty blocks of streets, packed with queers and allies in so many colors. If you’re on the shorter side, like me, you look up at the gray buildings to either side of you, and you see rainbow flags, large and small, waving in the air in front of banks and second-story threading salons.
Then, you look to your left or your right, and there are rows of people leaning against the barricades, smiling at you, cheering at you. Hollering at especially fantastic parade participants. Holding up witty signs, grinning. Holding babies and hoisting kids to their shoulders. From windows of primely-located buildings, rainbow flags unfurl. Multiple heads gather together to peek out the windows, smile, and make noise. There are just so many people there, most of them bursting with genuine joy to celebrate people being who they are.
It’s an uplifting, heart-filling celebration. It’s also hard to conceptualize. How many people are marching in the parade itself? How many onlookers are cheering? How many queers and allies does that comprise altogether? Holy cow; so many. So many! That’s meaningful for people who, on other days, in other places, risk being teased, beaten up, discriminated against, or murdered for stating their sexuality or gender identity or expression.
For one day of the year, there’s a space where it’s a little bit safer for boys to wear speedos and make eyes at one another. In this parade, drag queens get a lotta love. For this one day, pasties are a totally acceptable and definitely celebrated choice of top, even in the middle of Midtown.
Which still doesn’t mean the day of the Pride parade is safe for everyone. It’s not. If you’re walking around the West Village, you might see some glitter-covered young people of color getting hassled by the cops. The high visibility does, sometimes, mean that the more outlandishly-dressed get negative attention in addition to all the adoration.
But it’s so exciting that there’s a weekend to celebrate being yourself. That’s what I think Pride is mostly about, anyway. Not gender. Not sexuality. Not even politics. It’s about liking the way you look in booty shorts. It’s about gathering together with your community. It’s about wearing your rainbow tutu, because this is the one weekend of the year where that’s not going to be questioned. It’s about dancing down the street, unembarrassed. It’s about loving yourself in your colorfulness, your kinkiness, your thinness or fatness, your singleness or your multiple-partnered-ness. It’s about not apologizing for the way that you are, and about falling asleep Sunday night, sticky with sweat and with glitter still in your hair.