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.
[6/25/21 note: There’s a problem with the captions being visible right now so I’m copying them to the regular text until that gets fixed. So if you’re seeing double it’s been fixed and I don’t know it yet!]
23rd St & Madison Ave when I got off the subway
There were a lot of these along the parade route
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!
Our position on 26th Street, between 5th Ave and Broadway
My last service commitment started at 10am, to help get the bus ready, which consisted mostly of taping rainbow flags all over.
Just about ready! The bus that is. This was before 11am. We wouldn’t step of until after 5:30pm. (We were told 3pm…)
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!
The long list of companies staged on 26th Street
Delta was across the street from us
The intersection of 26th St and 5th Ave, with Madison Square Park in the background. This is essentially where I stood for 5.5 hours.
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.
First float: Grand Marshal, Gay Liberation Front
The parade started just after 12:00pm.
I got these done last Saturday just for the occasion. First time I’ve ever had my toenails painted (or anything else for that matter).
That banner says “Keep Dancing Orlando.”
I teared up again when I saw these guys.
This was the state of NY group, led by Governor Cuomo. It was huge, with smaller groups like AARP joining it. It was practically a parade all by itself.
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.
I loved that this was on a sanitation bus! Trash in this city is epic.
This gives you an idea of the logistics, which I always find fascinating.
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.
Sage is a group that does advocacy for LGBT elders. Joe who you met from the previous blog entry was on this bus. They were staged on the same street at us but were the first ones out, early on the in the parade.
Andy Cohen on the Bravo channel float
Tarab NYC. Banner reads “A community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer & gender non-conforming Arab, Middle Eastern & North African people in NYC.”
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.
The Chinese Rainbow Network float
This was part of the Chinese Rainbow Network. Might be my favorite sign of the day.
One of our conference attendees. He was in the front, of course, along with a couple of others who were dressed similarly.
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.
I would not want to have walked all day in this! Seems like those flags would have kept him toppling over. They must be pretty light. He was the front guy for the Delta float.
I don’t know how long these guys were there before I noticed them. Lots of people were viewing from their homes along the way.
This was by far my most favorite entry: The Caribbean Equality Project. These people had amazing costumes and were off the chart joyous.
This Guy. He was their lead of course!
One of many colorful costumes from this group.
One of many colorful costumes from this group.
They were a raucous, dancing group and pretty big
This sign says “Mama Jean, Founder of Gay Pride March.”
Lavender Light Gospel Choir. One of their signs said they were a person of color lesbian choir. Not sure how that explains the white guy in the middle!
Me and Andrew in front of the bus just before we stepped off
From this angle you can hardly see the bus; the reflection makes it look like those are buildings behind us!
Finally! We stepped off just after 5:30pm. This is the loaded bus about to pull out of 26th Street.
Some of us had gotten here as early as 10am. We finally joined our group that was marching up from 31st around 5:40pm.
I had started up here carrying the banner but there were so many people who wanted to be there it was getting crowded and I backed off. It was the right decision.
Finally pulling into 5th Ave
This might be my favorite photo. Ever.
These guys were hilarious and having a ball dancing up there
Andrew & Chip. They met at the first GSM conference in 2017.
I thought this was such a beautiful family I was compelled to take a photo. But the truth is, just one of many that I saw along the way.
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!
This used to be just the intersection of Christopher St and Gay St
The Stonewall Inn on Christopher St, where it all began
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.
The Hudson River at dusk, Pier 83 at the end of 43rd St
Our boat just before loading
The Empire State Building as we were pulling away.
Midtown at night from the Hudson River
Dancing on the top level of the boat
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.
Statue of Liberty at night
Remember the rocks from the Drop The Rock workshop the day before? We dropped them into the water here. Freedom.
Downtown NYC at night from the Hudson River
World Trade Center at night from the Hudson River
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!