We Are Proud — and We’re Still Marching

NYC Pride March 2017 (photo by ©MRNY)

We’ve been marching for so long that we should be there already. My husband and I started marching for Pride back when there was a lavender line painted the length of Fifth Avenue. We’ve been marching so long that we remember RuPaul selling homemade t-shirts on the sidewalk that read Everybody Say Love.

We marched back in the days when the March assembled along Central Park West and wound its way around Columbus Circle. We marched when there was a president who refused to acknowledge AIDS. We marched past the United Nations for the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. We marched with ACT UP and we marched with AA and we marched with PFLAG.

For more than a decade, we marched with my parents who arrived from Ithaca every Pride Weekend, the four of us carrying a handmade sign that read MOM AND DAD AND ME AND HE.  (We chose rhythm over grammar.)

NYC Pride March, circa 1980s (photographer unknown)

All along the March route, crowds would cheer for my parents. Two proud parents marching with two gay men! It was historic! As we marched into the Village, boys and girls would yell, “We love you, Mom and Dad.”  My stalwart father would try not to get emotional while my mother, the former Apple Blossom Princess of Winchester, Virginia, waved and blew kisses. One year, our photo appeared on the front page of the New York Times (below the fold, mind you, but still…).

We’ve been marching for so many years that we remember when Pier Dance was held on a narrow patch of tar along the West Side Highway. We’re so old that we have ticket stubs to the first Pier Dance ever held.

Ticket stubs from first Pier Dance (photo by ©MRNY)

So, of course, we marched this year because, as Heritage of Pride, Inc. reminds all of us, Sunday’s event is a “March” and not a “Parade” — which it will remain “until complete and full equality has been achieved for all LGBT people.”

Which means that we’ll be marching right to the end of our lives. As my mother used to remind us in paraphrasing Faye Wattleton, her mentor at Planned Parenthood, this isn’t a sprint; we’re in for a marathon.

NYC Pride March 2017 (photo by ©MRNY)

Fortunately, we’ll be in good company. This year’s NYC Pride March included more than 40,000 people marching alongside 400 contingents and floats, ably assisted by 1,000 volunteers. For the fourth consecutive year, the March’s color guard was provided by the Boy Scouts of America, which made history again in 2017 with a landmark decision allowing transgender youth to join the organization. Now there’s a change worth marching for.

NYC Pride March 2017 (photo by ©MRNY)

Mayor de Blasio marched, as did Senator Chuck Schumer, and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Senator Brad Hoylman marched and also Jerrold Nadler and Senator Tom Duane and Corey Johnson and Letitia James and plenty of other politicos, too. That didn’t used to happen when my husband and I first started marching (nor did we imagine, back then, that marriage would be an option).

NYC Pride March 2017 (photo by ©MRNY)

According to James Fallarino, NYC Pride Media Director, the average distance traveled for patrons attending NYC Pride is 1,100 miles — which implies a great desire to be here in the city that never sleeps. For as Governor Andrew Cuomo asserted in his NYC Pride remarks, “You can’t find a progressive movement in this country that didn’t start in the state of New York… And we should be proud that New York State, when they write the history books, will have been at the spearhead of the move of social justice for the LGBTQ community.”

NYC Pride March 2017 (photo by ©MRNY)

Lest anyone forgets, this March in New York is a civil rights demonstration that was founded in 1970 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Stonewall riots. And that’s another reason why we will still be marching in 2019 — for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion.

In conjunction with Stonewall 50, New York will also host WorldPride 2019, which will be the largest international LGBT Pride celebration of 2019. As part of New York State’s commemorative efforts, Governor Cuomo will convene a Stonewall 50 Commemoration Committee, as well as an I LOVE NY LGBT Welcome Center in New York City. Since 2013, Cuomo has been the proponent of the I LOVE NY LGBT initiative that highlights LGBT destinations and encourages LGBT visitors to travel to New York.

NYC Pride March 2017 (photo by ©MRNY)

More than two million spectators lined the streets this year for a March that was decidedly more about resistance than in previous years. “Resistance has always been at the foundation of the Pride movement,” states Chris Frederick, Managing Director, Heritage of Pride, Inc. “Now more than ever we need to be fighting for all of our rights as a collective movement.”

Chris Frederick, Managing Director of Heritage of Pride, Inc. at Pride Island at NYC Pride 2017 (photo by ©MRNY)

We’ve all been marching for so long — and while it might seem as if equality is shimmering like a mirage, we are closer to equality now than when my husband and I first marched with my parents.

We keep moving forward; we keep marching because we must.

NYC Pride March 2017 (photo by ©MRNY)

Mark Thompson

About Mark Thompson

A member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and New York Travel Writers Association (NYTWA), Mark Thompson is an editor, journalist, and photographer whose work appears in various periodicals, including Travel Weekly, Metrosource, Huffington Post, Global Traveler, Out There, and OutTraveler. The author of the novels Wolfchild (2000) and My Hawaiian Penthouse (2007), Mark completed a Ph.D. in American Studies. He has been a fellow and a resident at various artists' colonies, including the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center.

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