New York: the pillar of progress, the trendsetter, the beacon of hope. This was the sentiment of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s remarks at the 2018 New York City Pride Breakfast. With reference to heroes such as Edith Windsor, to the memorializing of tragedy, from Stonewall to Pulse, Governor Cuomo, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, various elected officials and LGBTQ+ community activists came together to celebrate. Celebrate the city that birthed the gay rights movement in America, as it welcomed the 49th annual Pride Parade. This was my third year attending New York City Pride, and by far, the most invigorating!
My first pride experience was in 2016. I had recently become open with my sexuality, inspired by an eye-opening abroad experience in the open arms of the London (prior to Brexit). The same year, I also fell in love with the man of my dreams. Together, we were excited to display our love to millions, sashaying down Fifth Avenue at the city’s 47th annual celebration. The feelings of festivity soon turned to tragedy after the June 12th massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, which lead to the deaths of 49 beautiful people. Sorrow vibrated through the country but decimated the souls of the LGBTQ+ community. We wore this pain on our sleeves as we marched in reverence that year. We watched President Obama address the nation with a compassionate candor; while he couldn’t resurrect those 49 lives or the lives of thousands that died from mass shootings up until that point, we knew he was on our side.
We took this anger into 2017’s Pride. Our community grieved for those 49 lives again, as the one-year anniversary of their death approached. That year it felt immoral to dance to Britney and Whitney. I needed to protest. I needed to scream until my voice beckoned a national call to care. But as we entered 2018, I started to feel that our consciousness turned distracted. We couldn’t keep up with the many calls to care projected into the atmosphere. We felt helpless and looked for the distraction to stay positive in such a trying time. I admit to having tuned out the news for a week and throwing myself into royal wedding coverage or onto the couch for a well-paced binge of every Marvel series on Netflix.
It has taken moments of true national despair to snap us back to reality. The repeal of net neutrality wasn’t enough. Certainly, Flint, Michigan’s continuing issue securing a clean water source didn’t even stick the landing on cable news. Parkland, Las Vegas, Hurricanes Maria and Harvey, and Charlottesville. These horrific events steered our attention back into focus. Most recently, the caging of undocumented children was enough to even enrage the moderate Republican. Whether the 280 characters of rage turns to action remains to be seen. I’m assuming not. Our collective awareness seems to be unwavering, as I’m writing this piece on June 25th, 2018 at 7 pm. This may change if I turn on cable news and see a 35-person panel dissecting the most recent cryptic tweet by Stormy Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti.
For now, there seems to be a pivot in the way we discuss the future. Pride 2018 fostered a feeling that I know I haven’t felt in 20 months. We took our 2016 sorrow and 2017 anger to unleash a new emotion … determination.
Today, we balance the determination to not let these actions destroy our happiness with the determination to stop the agenda. Mainly, we’re determined to not let it define what it means to be American. To embrace diversity in all its forms, in supporting each other to create a symbiotic society, where the needs of one are not more important than the strife of the next. That’s the America I choose to believe in.
I’m now revived. On Sunday, June, 24th I marched, hand in hand with my partner, joyous to celebrate my reignited passion for progress. I watched New York State open the most beautiful and powerful monument in Hudson River Park, honoring the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, along with the countless LGBTQ+ individuals who have been victim to hate. As Governor Cuomo eloquently pointed out, the memorial stands within view of Lady Liberty.
Lady Liberty will always win. The tired, the poor, the huddled masses and the downtrodden have their sights set on rectifying our place on the international stage. It’s our hope as the LGBTQ+ community, that the man in charge takes his final bow as soon as possible. Because everybody knows, we put on the best show.