Blaring pop music and the sight of “a bunch of rainbow flags” beckoned Michael Ghould, a bisexual 22-year-old finishing his shift at the nearby Standard hotel, to the first Youth Pride festival, an aperitif a day before Sunday’s entree: the 49th Pride march.
“For so long, these communities have had to hide and be afraid of what outsiders think — and now we can be completely ourselves with no fear, but lots of pride,” said Ghould, originally from Cleveland, who now lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn, as he waited on line for the festival.
The march commemorates 49 years since exasperated patrons of The Stonewall Inn revolted against frequent NYPD raids on gathering spots frequented by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and ignited the modern movement for the groups’ civil rights.
Five decades ago, New York law banned “homosexual” gathering places, criminalized “impersonating a female” and adopting “the dress of the opposite sex”; the State Liquor Authority could revoke the liquor license of a bar that served such people, considering the premise “disorderly.”
Now the NYPD is guarding, and marching in, the parade, to the consternation of some activists on the political left, who want the police participation limited or booted.
The NYPD has even painted a police SUV in rainbow colors, appropriated the colors for the emergency lights, etched “Pride,” “Equality” and “Peace” and “LGTBQ” onto the vehicle and decorated its rims with the rainbow and transgender flags.
This year’s route steps off at 16th Street and Seventh Avenue, turns east on Christopher Street past the Stonewall, continues on West 8th Street, before the final stretch up Fifth Avenue to 29th Street. It’s a change from prior years, when the parade started uptown and went downtown.
According to the NYPD, the parade is expected to attract tens of thousands of marchers and millions more spectators. It begins at noon.
The Youth Pride event, which featured a live DJ and performances, was billed as “electrifying experience for LGBTQIA+ and ally teens!” and debuted this year.
Ahead of Ghould on the Youth Pride line: Isaiah Quiñones, 19, who as a self-described genderqueer person says he doesn’t conform to traditional notions of gender.
Caped in the blue, pink and white transgender flag, with matching eye makeup, lipstick, four-inch floral heels and a pin on his pink buttoned-up shirt conveying his preferred pronouns (“They, Them, Their”), Quiñones says he is looking forward to marching Sunday.
“It’s super important that we represent and protect and show support for people who are most vulnerable and attacked in our community,” said Quiñones, a freshman at Hunter College.
Quiñones added: “I’m very privileged,” with a bisexual mother, an older trans sibling who identifies as “pansexual” (a person who is attracted to people of all gender identities) — and two siblings who identify as bisexual.
Julian Sanjivan, the march director, says this year’s parade slogan is a rejoinder to President Donald Trump’s policies on a range of issues.
“The theme this year is defiantly different, and I think it’s extremely important given the current political environment that we are in,” he said.
He added: “We definitely feel very isolated and there’s a lot of fear and there’s a lot of frustration in the community.”