My first Pride Parade Experience!

 

On Sunday, I attended the NYC Pride Parade for the first time, and it was glorious.

I arrived in New York’s Grand Central with two of my friends. We headed to the middle of the main concourse to meet up with our darling friend Niku. This was also his first Pride, and we were so excited to get to experience it together! My friends who had invited me had attended in the past, and were amused by my clear enthusiasm and excitement.

I use to identify my friends by their sexuality, labeling them as I explained to other people who they were. I’ve realized in the last few years, that it’s not necessary. They don’t identify me as their “straight friend Justine” why the hell am I identifying them as my “gay friend.” They’re just my friends, and I am fortunate to call them such. I have a cousin who is Trans gendered, who I love more than anything. When I talk to people about her, I  highlight her amazing talents, humor, gifts and why I love her so damn much, and not on what her genitals are.

I continually feel frustration toward those who are not accepting of the LGBTQ community. Can we please just treat people like people instead of freaking out because we are all different?  It’s 2015. This community didn’t just rise up out of the earth yesterday. They’ve been around for centuries, and unfortunately have been ignored, criminalized, dehumanized and in some cases, left out of history for centuries because of the fear and prejudice of those writing the stories.

It was amazing to participate in the Pride celebration this past Sunday, standing and cheering with electric crowds that were celebrating themselves and all they have done to make the world more accepting. Everyone there was able to be who they are, without judgement, without shame or discrimination. Being there with my friends, Alisha, Lauren and Niku, made me appreciate all that has transpired over decades of fighting for basic human rights and liberties that should come standard for all citizens of this great nation. Inalienable rights are still a thing, and on Sunday it was proudly apparent.

I couldn’t stop smiling the entire day. When we first arrived, Niku sweetly pushed me forward (I’m shorter than he is, he can see clear over my head) so I could see the action. I loved turning around and seeing his beaming smile, thrilled and radiant with joy at the feeling of acceptance and dignity that resounded through the atmosphere. We cheered together and clapped for the organizations that  passed by- Act Up, Sage, Community Healthcare Network, GLSEN, PFLAG, The Trevor Project, and so many more.

At first, I was slightly surprised to see so many corporate sponsors. Usually, I imagined, this wasn’t a really corporate event. But to see names like Hilton, TD Bank, Citi Bank, etc float down the route along side long standing LGBTQ organizations like Act Up and SAGE, made me realize how far corporations have come. The Hilton Float in particular was brilliant- a giant tiered cake with two newlyweds atop and a flag from every state being carried and flown by people on the ground. It was a great day to celebrate the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage.

And of course I lost any composure I had left when I saw the Netflix float go by with Adirenne Moore, Yael Stone, and Jackie Cruz of Orange is the New Black.

Lost.My.Mind.

Its easy to get lost in the excitement of all the amazing people coming out to represent, but truly, the day was about how far this community has come and how hard they have fought to be accepted.

With the passing of the Supreme Court Law, now members of this community can move about our country freely, not having to worry about whether or not their marriage is going to be legally recognized or accepted by another state. That if something happens to their loved one, they will be able to care for them and support them, and not be turned away because their relationship “doesn’t count.” These are human beings, this is love and commitment. They are deserving of love and belonging as much as anyone else on this Earth. As Georgia’s Congressman John Lewis so beautifully put, “Races don’t fall in love, Genders don’t fall in love, People fall in love.”

We walked the length of the parade, and ended up down by the end in the area where many of the sponsors and organizations set up their booths. We decided to try and watch the rest of the parade from the view on one of the side streets. Part of me was slightly bummed that we had missed Ian McKellan one of the Grand Marshals of the parade, one of my all time favorite actors of screen and stage. To have seen him would’ve be the sweetest cherry on top of an already amazing day.

Then, as if summoned by our discarded hopes, he rounded the corner to the street we were on, like a beacon of Pride itself.

Pride Sir Ian

I almost didn’t want to even snap the picture; just keep it in my mind for all of time. I’m so glad I did. I will always remember the joy and excitement and magic attached to this very moment.

It was amazing to experience the Pride Parade and join in the celebrations. I wish I had stayed longer to check out the booths, and apparently, an amazing stand up performance by Bianca Del Rio who is one of the funniest ladies of comedy I’ve ever seen. Next year, I hope to go and participate more, and I’m definitely looking into volunteer opportunities.

There are many volunteer opportunities and organizations represented on Miley Cyrus’ Happy Hippie Foundation site, which you can also explore here under Resources. I mentioned recently wanting to get involved, particularly with LGBTQ youth who are homeless because of family rejection to a friend, and she mentioned this site to me. I have no idea how I’ll do it, but I definitely hear the call, and wish to answer as strongly as I’m capable of.

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