It’s hard to believe that it’s Pride Month again, but here we are. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and many people are talking about it. So, I thought I’d just say something about my own personal experience with Pride Month.
The first time I went to a Pride parade here in New York, it was probably 1987. I stepped out of the subway with my then girlfriend, and was stunned by all the gay people swarming the streets. I had no idea what to expect, but I guess that wasn’t it. I just had never dreamed that there were so many gay people around. Not that I’d ever really thought about it much, but…well, I’d never thought about it much.
It was probably the most exhilarating feeling, being surrounded by so many people who were like me. It was also scary. Why, I can’t say for sure. Maybe it was because I knew I was part of this group, and wasn’t ready to admit it. (I had a little bit of difficulty coming out to myself.)
I went to the parade almost every year for a long time after that. That was always followed by a night of clubbing with friends at some lesbian event or other. It was often something that came with grand plans of who we were going with, who we were going to meet up with, where we were going to meet up, where we would go, where we would eat, what time we’d head to the club, how we were getting there, and on and on. More often than not, we’d make a stop at The Cubby Hole, which then became (and still is) Henrietta Hudson’s, on Hudson St, where the Dykes on Bikes would park their wheels, and we’d have a drink or two and say hello to people we knew, before heading to whatever club was hosting a party.
Those parties were always so much fun. Big clubs with wall-to-wall lesbians dancing, sweating, drinking, kissing… Sometimes we caught glimpses of minor celebrities, and sometimes it was so crowded, you couldn’t even find your friends. Once, we went to a party that was held on a pier along the Hudson River. The music pounded from massive speakers, while the Empire State Building, lit up in rainbow colors, loomed in the distance. The music at these parties was always great and we often danced until the wee hours before straggling our way home, or maybe to a diner for breakfast.
In those days, the march and parade was shaded with desperation in getting people to pay attention to the AIDS epidemic and in finding a cure. In the ’90s, the focus became visibility. In the 2000s, it was about marriage equality. Today I imagine it’s about politics and everything turning around and heading back to where we started.
Later, as I got a little older and no one could handle a day’s worth of marching and parading and a night’s worth of dancing any longer, we skipped the day’s activities and went right to the clubs. Eventually, the clubbing stopped. (We used to head out at 11 p.m. for these nights out, which I can’t even imagine doing anymore. I can barely stay awake at 11, let alone go anywhere.)
Since this is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, there’s going to be another parade that will take the original route of the first march. This is apparently to protest the commercialization of the pride parade. I’m not going to comment on the politics of all that, but I will say this. I went to the parade a couple of years ago, after not having gone in a long time, and it did strike me how mainstream the parade has gotten, with big corporation sponsors and flashy floats. It’s definitely come a long way since the days of small motley groups with homemade banners, small floats, and police officers turning their horses around so that their asses faced the marchers as they went by. Some might say that the parade has gotten away from its original message and people just go for the partying.
Well, maybe that’s true. Right or wrong, with all the bullshit we’ve had to put up with, we deserve to have fun and celebrate ourselves. After all the marching, protesting, petitioning, and fighting that we still continue to do, it’s important to remember that we may be warriors, but we’re also people who want to enjoy life.
So, do what feels right to you. Party, don’t party. March, don’t march. Celebrate, or not. But do, at the very least, remember that the whole reason we even have a Pride Month is because we have been trampled, abused, ostracized, and forgotten in the past, and we don’t ever want to allow that to happen again. You know what, while you’re at it, watch the film Before Stonewall. It’s a good reminder of what people went through before us.
Happy Pride, everyone! Have fun and be safe!