A series of firsts for Pride

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Network television coverage, a transgender grand marshal and new political messages highlight the 48th annual march


  • Marchers at East 41st Street and Madison Avenue. Photo: Elvert Barnes, via flickr

  • Sunday signs. Photo: Elvert Barnes, via flickr

  • At the march. Photo: Elvert Barnes, via flickr

  • Along the barricades in the West Village. Photo: Estelle Pyper

  • Marching along Christopher Street. Photo: Estelle Pyper

By Estelle Pyper

Thousands of rainbow-clad New Yorkers and tourists gathered in the streets of Manhattan on Sunday, June 25 for the culminating event of Pride Week 2017. The 48th annual Pride March drew members, friends, and allies of the LGBTQ community to celebrate and protest for the protection of their rights. From Fifth Avenue to Christopher Street, 2017 marked a year of many firsts for the Pride March.

It’s been almost 50 years since the historic Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village launched the start of the gay rights movement, serving as a catalyst for the first march a year later in 1970. Recently, the event was referred to as “Pride Parade.” Planners decided this year to officially label it a Pride “March” instead. The word highlights the distinction between a protest and a celebration, and was meant to evoke the earliest political marches.

“Pride is more than just being out and proud,” said Angelo Franco, a New York project manager. “It’s about the sacrifice of all those who came before me that allow me to stand here today, in my brown skin, decked out in all the colors of the rainbow, and say that I love the way I am.”

For the first time, the New York City Pride March was televised on a major network. ABC broadcast the event from Fifth Avenue, providing interviews and commentary to viewers as the march passed. This move accentuated the intentions of the original march: to make LGBTQ members visible to the world.

“For me, pride means visibility,” explained Bailey C., a transgender man from Long Island. “It means being able to walk down the street and not really care who clocks me as a trans guy — and also the fact that I’m in a relationship with another guy. I know there’s been a lot of tension in this country especially. Pride to me just means being able to come together as one.”

Brooke Guinan, a transgender woman who works for the New York City Fire Department, was named a grand marshal of the event along with the American Civil Liberties Union, Krishna Stone of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and Geng Le, a Chinese gay rights activist. This marked the first time a transgender public safety employee has served as a grand marshal.

Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst released early from prison in May, also participated by riding on the ACLU float. Celebrities including Kelly Osbourne and singer Sam Smith joined in on glittering floats, while some paused to perform numbers on the designated stage.

Other highlights included a float collaboration between Alexander Wang and Trojan which distributed free condoms to the cheering crowd. Political groups representing Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio passed out rainbow colored posters, and anti-Trump signage dotted the scene. A “silent memorial” of participants dressed hauntingly in white veils held black and white posters of those killed in last year’s Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.

Security was tight all around, mainly to control heavy foot traffic and maintain the peace, but the day saw a few conflicts. A woman was quickly whisked away by police after spritzing pepper spray into a crowd of onlookers. In another instance, a group of 12 protesters sat in the middle of the parade route, repeating anti-police chants. They were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after disrupting the flow for about 10 minutes. The march quickly resumed.

In all, the day was peaceful, yet intentionally politically-driven. Many activist groups used the publicity and popularity of the event to shed light on other topics, such as reproductive rights, the Black Lives Matter movement and gun violence, all with an anti-Trump edge.

“Really at the end of the day, we’re just one people and we’ve got to stick together,” said Bailey C. “I think we’ve been so divided with labels like trans, gay, bi, pan, whatever.” He’s attended the parade for three years now, he said, “but this is the first year I can do this!” He drew back the rainbow flag draped around his shoulders to reveal a naked chest — the result of a recent top surgery.

As the sun set, the revelers disappeared into the night to celebrate a successful Pride Week, leaving in their wake a sea of rainbow streamers and #Resist posters in front of Stonewall Inn.

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