This year my friends and I attended the 49th annual World Pride Parade in New York City, 50 years after the Stonewall Riots.
Clad in rainbow colors from head to toe, we soon felt underdressed as we walked along Fifth Avenue taking count of all the body glitter, rainbow boas and outrageous costumes that people proudly wore in the 80-degree heat.
Since 1970, the LGBTQ+ communities have come together to celebrate their culture and remember their past and recent oppression. The first march took place on June 28, 1970, one year after the Stonewall Riots when the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn for hosting gay patrons. Covering 51 miles of Manhattan, a new tradition was born and soon followed globally.
As counterculture and civil rights movements of the 1960s and ’70s continued to evolve, the gay community was also seen to gain national attention seeking equality. Once the Stonewall Riots were publicized, nationwide awareness of the gay community spiked and moved to the front pages of the news. Despite being confronted with negative or shameful biases, this coverage enabled LGBTQ+ organizations to flourish, centering their focuses on normalizing the social climate to the sexuality spectrum.
It is simple to say that we have made enormous strides to combat the extreme prejudices against the LBGTQ+ community: in 2000, June was named “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month,” nine years later June was renamed “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month,” in 2015, gay marriage was legalized nationally in Obergefell vs. Hodges, and the Stonewall Inn was made a national monument in 2016. Today, we dedicate 30 days of June to the LGBTQ+ community, sharing support by walking in parades, posting on social media and learning about their history. However, even with these progressive steps, it is important to recognize the work that still needs to be done.
In this age of digital culture and social media consumption, I have seen companies and labels use Pride Month as a ploy to generate a greater profit. In June, various companies add a rainbow to their profile pictures or mention Pride in their posts, but once July begins, there is rarely any more public support of the community.
At the Pride Parade, I witnessed a wave of politicians marching and handing out campaign paraphernalia with rainbows, which essentially translated to “vote for me and I will support you.” The crowds grew tired and screams became softer as the parade turned from a celebration to a campaign rally.
It was mind-blowing to see that type of self-seeking intention take center stage. One would assume that after years of urgent calls for acceptance, groups would act sensitively, trying to avoid as many misconstrued assumptions as possible. Yet, sadly, this is not the only current case in need of correction.
At World Pride NYC, over 20 countries participated in marching, some of which do not get the opportunity to celebrate in their own cities. From Brazilian to Russian organizations, men and women marched with pride and urgency, carrying signs that said “Restricted but still marching.”
This year’s Pride Parade brought together over three million people– the event’s greatest record since its genesis. From Midtown to the West Village, members and allies of the community gathered with jubilance, shouting calls for remembrance and continuity.
In preparation for the 50th Pride Parade, we should acknowledge the mission is not complete and work together for a more prideful and colorful future.