What a day. It will be difficult to write about an experience of this magnitude concisely but I’ll do my best.
I’d thankfully slept until about 6:45am after going to bed at 1am. It was enough. But not too much to not be able to get the blog up around 9am before I had to leave. There was a bagel breakfast meetup close to the start of the parade so I made my over there on subway.
I’ll make a point to say here I may keep much of this to photos and captions. And it will still be a lot!
My last service commitment started at 10am, to help get the bus ready, which consisted mostly of taping rainbow flags all over.
One of the parade staff stopped cold when she saw this. “Wait a minute, let me get my head around this. What do you mean by ‘sober’? Do you mean no alcohol??” We assured her we did. “I’m going to have to think about this one. I’m going to be gay today but I am NOT going to be sober!” Well alrighty then, you now know there’s another way!
It was so great that we were staged on 26th, because that’s where the parade started, so we got to see it from the very beginning.
The parade started just after 12:00pm.
I teared up again when I saw these guys.
This group was across 5th Ave from us on 26th St. They were followed by lots of other political types, including Senator Chuck Schumer and AOC.
This shows the staging happening on either side of 5th Ave all the way up to 33rd St. The rest of our group that was marching was gathering on 31st. They would leave first and we would join them when they reached 26th.
By far the most interesting group I saw, and was so happy for them! Given they come from cultures that still kill you for being gay (literally), this has to be amazing for them.
I don’t remember this guy’s name but he was on opening speaker at our Saturday night meeting at the Unishpere (without the costume!). He was asked to speak about why he wanted to come to this event and its importance to him. One of the things he talked about I agreed with. There’s been a lot of controversy this year about the corporate sponsorship of Pride. True believers are annoyed that others are capitalizing, and feel that it’s insincere if these organizations aren’t actively practicing the principles of diversity. Some groups are going as far as to have counter events without the corporate involvement. I agree we should be holding companies accountable where we can, but I also agree with what this guy said: if the visibility the sponsorship creates helps kids growing up who are gay learn that they are OK the way they are, then its worth it. I certainly had no such messages growing up, and was one of (the many) reasons I didn’t come out until I was 35. It took years to unravel all of the negative messages i’d received, so this new generation gets a whole different experience and I’m thrilled about that.
Some of us had gotten here as early as 10am. We finally joined our group that was marching up from 31st around 5:40pm.
Pulling away from carrying the banner was the right decision. Even once I’d first gotten up there, I was thinking “but then I won’t be able to see the people as well.” I’d been thinking I would walk alongside the spectators, so went back to that. I really wanted to be able to make eye contact with people. That was absolutely the right choice.
What I didn’t anticipate was how much they would want to interact with us. I couldn’t count the number of high fives, hand slapping, hand holding, hugs, kisses and “I love yous” that I encountered.
Of all of my interactions with the public there were three that stood out:
- One guy motioned me over to hug him. I swear he had tears in his eyes as the said to me “I’m so glad you’re here.” Now, you can interpret that many ways. My preferred interpretation is it’s the “sober” that got to him, and we made a difference at least for that guy.
- A woman yelled “23 years” as I high fived her.
- The glare was too bad to see who was holding it, but at one point along 7th Ave just before 16th Street I looked up and there was a dancing Big Book in a window!
We ended at 23rd Street just about 7:30pm. It was a nice walk back to the hotel on 43rd to wind down from that incredible experience, both exhilarating and exhausting. So Glad I Did it.
I got my phone charger and freshened up again before heading out. The last event of the conference was a river boat cruise on the Hudson.
Not all, but many of these guys also marched. I don’t know how they could still dance! Maybe they hadn’t been on their feet since 9am as I had.
Remember the rocks from the Drop The Rock workshop the day before? We dropped them into the water here. Freedom.
By the way, you notice there were no photos of food. That’s essentially because I didn’t eat a proper meal until about 10pm on the boat, and then it was a basic hot dog with potato salad, not very photo worthy. The bus was loaded with water, Gatorade and snacks like granola bars so that’s what I lived on.
I got back to my room about 12:45pm. I started culling the photos and finally went to bed around 1:15am.
The conference was amazing, and the March was impossible to describe. I’m so happy to have done it all and will have to figure out when to do some journaling on some of it.
That said, I’m also glad it’s over and am looking forward now to pure vacation!