NYC Pride 2017 consisted of many events, but the most anticipated event is the Pride March down 5th Avenue that ends on Christopher Street. The 48th NYC Pride March began and ended at a rainbow crosswalk and minutes before the march at the front line, motorcycles adorned in rainbow decor were parked in formation.
Once it was noon, the motorcycles roared to life after the celebratory confetti blasted out of cannons, which signaled the start of the march. Behind those motorcyclists were more than just various marchers with rainbow flags and attire. Those who marched made it clear that they where proud of who they are and who they love despite the issues they may face for expressing that.
Multiple groups that marched were bringing up issues that the LGBTQ community faces. One of which is the hate violence received by the community, especially the violence that occurred at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last year. The mass shooting killed 49 people, which was the largest mass shooting in American history.
The 47th march last year welcomed the Pulse nightclub staff to march at NYC Pride, and they did while receiving a mass amount of support. The owner and entertainment manager of Pulse, Barbara Poma and Neema Bahrami, were welcomed back once again this year. They marched and made a statement at the press conference that expressed their appreciation.
“I was searching for someone to understand us, and you were those somebodies. Thank you for taking us in and holding us so tight in your love when we so desperately needed it.”
One of the groups featured in the parade were Gays Against Guns, some of whom were individuals dressed in white and wearing white veils that disguised their faces. They each held signs with information about a LGBTQ victim of gun violence, including the victims of the Pulse shooting.
One influence of hate violence towards the LGBTQ community is not only gun violence, but the lack of acceptance that leads to hate. This was a theme brought up by many of those in the community and by the Parade Grand Marshals. One of the marshals, Geng Le, had a message of unity and acceptance, which are things he has not always received before.
“Many years ago in China, textbooks and media still consider homosexuality perverse and needs to be treated; it was then that I found myself to be gay and I was frightened. I thought I was the only one and I needed to be treated. Seventeen years ago, I founded the LGBT website in China because I wanted to tell people that are like me that they don’t need to hate themselves or harm themselves. And I also want to raise awareness and public knowledge of LGBTQ.”
Geng Le was one of the first to create a gay social website in the Republic of China, which now has 30 million users, 20 million of which are from China.
Grand Marshal Brooke Guinan, the first openly transgender New York City Firefighter, stressed the importance of the march not just as a celebration of the LGBTQ community, but also as a way to fight for and educate others on the community’s rights.
“Here we are 50 years after the Stonewall riots and we still march for equality. We call it a march because the community still finds itself facing discrimination and many members of our community are literally fighting for their lives…Much like that night in June of 1969, we are living in a climate today that is just as important to show up and insist that we be respected, that insist that we be valued in our society most importantly not just here in the United States, but as we have seen across the entire globe.”
Another marshal of the parade that also advocates for the LGBTQ community’s rights is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They have worked for nearly 100 years to defend cases that involve the rights and liberties of the Constitution, including those effected by the LGBTQ community. Two of their most popular clients are Gavin Grimm and Chelsea Manning, both of whom attended the march.
Grimm identifies as transgender and sued his school that did not allow him to use the boys’ bathroom. Manning also identifies as transgender, but has been making headlines for other reasons. President Barrack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in January after she was originally sentenced for 35 years for violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses in 2013.
James Esseks, Director of LGBT cases at ACLU, and Gavin Grimm both made statements at the press conference before the march. Grimm’s statement touched on the use of public bathrooms by transgender people, one of the many specific fights of the LGBTQ community and a hot topic debate of the past few years.
“Trans people are not a threat to everybody else in restrooms. The real goal of those who try to keep trans people from using the restrooms as a right for us is to keep people from living our most authentic selves, to eliminate us from public life and force us into hiding in the hopes that if enough people don’t acknowledge our reality, we will no longer exist. But we are not going anywhere.”
The amount of people who attended the parade show that those in the community are vast and proud and “are not going anywhere.” The 2.1 mile route was lined with crowds behind guardrails who were cheering, dancing, and waving rainbow flags. Although there is no official estimate for this year’s turn out, last year had the highest attendance yet with an estimated 2.3 million people in the crowd. According to the Media Director for NYC Pride, James Fallarino, there were 462 groups that marched this year and over 500 volunteers.
Despite the many organizations and spectators that attended the parade, numerous politicians also marched in solidarity. Mayor Bill De Blasio made an appearance, which is not his first march. He has attended other marches in the past and he was a Grand Marshal in the Brookyln Pride Parade 2014. Also in 2014, De Blasio boycotted the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade because it’s organizers prohibited marchers from carrying signs that identified themselves as LGBTQ. He boycotted the parade again until 2016, even though the parade welcomed a group in 2015 who openly identify as LGBTQ.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also marched along with Paul Feinman, New York’s first openly gay judge to the court of the appeals – the state’s highest court. In a statement to the crowd and the media, Cuomo stated why he marched with Feinman:
“This is the state that passed marriage equality. I was the governor who was honored to sign that bill. And I think that made a difference all across the country. And I think this appointment of an openly gay person to the court of appeals is another sign of that progress and that acceptance. And at a time when this nation seems to be getting angrier and more fearful and talking about building walls, New York is still talking about building bridges and bringing people together.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Other politicians also marched, such as council members including Corey Johnson, New York Senator Chuck Shumer, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou and that is just to name a few. Although, there is one politician in high office who did not show his support for NYC Pride or even Pride Month – President Donald J. Trump.
Trump showed support for the LGBTQ community on the campaign trail, but has not shown any further support during his presidency. At the Republican National Convention Trump said, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. As a Republican, I’m so happy to hear you cheering for what I just said.”
Months later once Trump took office, the president rescinded legislation that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom of their gender identity. Then recently, the White House did not acknowledge Pride Month. The White House did acknowledge this month as Great Outdoors Month, National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, African-American Music Appreciation Month, National Ocean Month, and National Home Ownership Month.
Obama and President Bill Clinton acknowledged Pride Month multiple times during their presidency, but Trump and President George W. Bush did not. The GOP party has shown a lack of support of the LGBTQ community in the past, including those involved in the current presidency. Vice President Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which permitted discrimination against LGBTQ people.
Although Trump and Pence have made some of the LGBTQ community concerned with their lack of support, some people in the community are resisting and opposing his presidency. One of the groups featured in the march is Rise and Resist, which was a group “committed to opposing, disrupting, and defeating any government act that threatens democracy, equality, and our civil liberties,” according to their website.
The group received cheers from spectators and echoed chants of their resistance to the president and those who work with him. They carried signs that had faces of Ivanka Trump, Scott Pruitt, Mike Pence, and Jeff Sessions, stating what those individuals had done to not support the LGBTQ community.
Although the LGBTQ community might be concerned and opposing the presidency, there are those that are still proud to express their true self, which coincides with the official theme of the march – “We Are Proud.”
Three spectators and friends, two of which are siblings, arrived a few hours early to the march route and have attended in the past. They also echo the theme of being proud and believe that coming to Pride is about being proud of who you are. “…Since the shootings and since all the things that have happened with the community, being here is really great because we can all come together and be proud of who we are,” Victoria Cartularo said.