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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gay Pride: Ghosts of Pride Past, Present and Future

Pride March 1974

I'm reaching into the deep past to conjure up my early remembrances of the NYC Pride march. I hope I don't scare anybody with the "age" issue. Age stereotyping and discrimination is still very prominent in the gay community which, like the dance-music world, can be a tad thorny for me at moments. But, I mean, I'm still hep! I'm still youthful! I'm "Forever Young!" I can still disco down without fear of hip replacement or heart attack! I swear to God! It's just that I've just been around  awhile -- oh, and, yes, in so many ways as you may have guessed.

It's a riot!
The Stonewall riots occurred the summer after I graduated high school. Class of '69, my class was actually named "the '69ers," (I kid you not.) So, after graduation from University of Colorado, my second boyfriend invited me to go with him to GAANJ (Gay Activists Alliance of New Jersey). Consequently, I decided I'd walk with him/them in the New York City Gay Pride march in '74.

The march was unofficial and not sanctioned by the City or then-Mayor, Abe Beame. Consequently, we had to march on the sidewalks, not in the road. Traffic was not stopped, there was no police protection nor overboard crowd-control equipment nor onlooking crowds. There were no vendors selling souvenirs, no floats, no pier dance to go to, no go-go boys but, yes, the drag queens were there.

The route for these early marches went from Christopher Street, where the riots took place, uptown to Central Park. It got media attention, of course. At the band shell in the park, there were performances. Then everyone took the subway or cabbed it back downtown to go to the bars and discos on and around Christopher Street, where most gay action was located at the time.

Go-go gods
The march has become more sophisticated, but also more commercial, predictable and overly controlled. However, Heritage of Pride is to be highly commended for all the effort they put in annually to present an organized, fun and respectful event each year.

From 1993 through 2011, I lived in a cramped studio apartment off the corner of Fifth Ave & 8th St in Manhattan. Even when I far outgrew it with material things, I held onto it because (a) it was rent-stabilized, (b) location location location and (c) the Pride march passed by, right out front. Many brunches, coffees and cocktails were served up for my friends, plus there was a restroom and a space to sit down when standing got too much or the heat outside got too intense. Good times! Before that cushy situation, I alternately marched or watched. 

This year, I'll be commuting in from Bay Ridge. But I will be there, eager to catch the start with Dykes on Bikes and Cyndi Lauper, its Grand Marshal. I will probably go to the Gay Pride march for my lifetime, remembering my first marches that felt so civil-disobedient. Watch out for my walker!

Every year, my Dr Spinelli reminds me: "Be safe!" And, every year, I say to him: "At my age, what (or who) do you think I'm gonna do??!?" (Of course, I guess you (and I) never know.)

Happy LGBT Pride to all for 2012!


  1. oh dahling, I know I walked that sidewalk with you at least once. And I've enjoyed every Pride Day I've celebrated with you. I clearly remember when Cyndi hosted many years ago. I won't be there this year, but we were there last year, and I hope we'll be there next year! ENJOY! CELEBRATE!!!!

  2. Yes, we have walked the sidewalk together -- the lavendar brick road! Happy Pride! See you next year.