I was born the same year the Stonewall Rebellion roiled New York City where, according to family lore, my first act was to flip the bird and start howling. I turned 21 along with NYC Pride and celebrated hard enough to need crutches and a brace afterwards. But Pride was, and is, worth it. I celebrated my emancipation by marching as part of the Cubby Hole contingent (the original site of which is now home to Henrietta Hudson, one of the three remaining lesbian bars in NYC), and when I needed a break, the lovely Levi and leathermen of The Eagles Nest (now The Eagle NYC) invited me to ride on their float.
It was amazing and magical and the assurances that I received that “it never rains on Pride” (at least in Manhattan), and “everyone gets laid on Pride,” both proved true. Through Pride, I fell in love all over again, with my city, with my community, and with the movement I’ve always felt a part of.
The first Staten Island PrideFest was held in the very early ’90s in a rented room on the grounds of Snug Harbor. As a musician, who’d already been playing in bands since I was a kid, I was thrilled to perform for that inaugural event. The first SI Pride Parade happened in 2005, and I performed on that stage, too. (Over the years I’ve played a lot of Prides, and even some other “firsts,” like Frankfort, Illinois!) And I even played at NYC Pride itself (opening for Toshi Reagon) in the 2000s.
What makes NYC Pride such a big deal? The five boroughs celebrate throughout June with each borough getting its own day and parade. Traditionally, the last to have a Pride parade — Staten Island —goes first, and the first goes last: Manhattan, which also celebrates all month long.
Queer Liberation March and Rally in New York City on Sunday, June 30, 2019, Gay Pride Day
From concerts on the pier to the various tea parties, you can feel the energy, the pulsing joy and vibrancy of the community itself, building to the day of the parade, one of the top parades in the U.S. for any occasion. For Pride, it’s as though the entire city of New York goes gay. For one day, everything and everyone is queer, LGBTQ-positive, or gay affirming. On that one day, you know with a deep unshakable certainty, that the homophobes and the gay bashers are in the minority.
The streets are ours. Literally. Major streets are closed to traffic, the festival is huge, and everywhere you turn individuals and businesses are waving flags and showing support. It’s all rainbow joy. Manhattan’s Pride parade is the biggest anywhere. Around the globe. In 2019 when New York hosted World Pride, 5 million — yes, million — people attended the parade, in a borough that has approximately 1.6 million residents.
The rainbow tribe gathers from all corners of the globe for this celebration. It is especially meaningful for those who face daily homophobia, discrimination, or violence back home. This city, especially on Pride Day, shows us all the manifestation of that dream-come-true: the acceptance, the love, the sexy freedom when we all come together to celebrate human diversity. Come feel the freedom and love for yourself.
This piece initially appeared in Out Traveler print issue Summer 2022. Find our run down of 2022 Pride events here.