“Once upon a time,” reads David Puck’s open book costume, “there was a conspiracy against drag artists.”
That time is now, but it wasn’t that long ago that it was considered acceptable enough that Rudy Giuliani appeared in public in full drag and embraced a future president. The annual Drag March took place on the Friday night before the Pride March as it has since 1994, drawing over 3,000 participants to Tompkins Square Park.
The atmosphere on June 23 was ebullient, with an abundance of creativity and pride lighting up the faces of pretty much everyone there.
Veterans and first timers mingled, posed and embraced while the multitude of photographers tried to capture every look before the marchers took off for Stonewall behind the brand new “Drag March” banner created by Machine Dazzle. According to the organizers, the event “provides a platform for self-expression and solidarity while confronting societal challenges such as homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny.”
The right-wing media was there as well and managed to catch an isolated incident on tape — a few people performing an old chant for a few seconds that mentions children, and that was all they needed to misrepresent the event all over the news, Twitter and as far afield as the Hindustan Times.
Despite the political signs that popped up — such as “Save Florida” and “Black Trans Lives Matter” — the evening was infused with joy and celebration.
Hucklefaery, one of the 30 or so volunteers who make the march possible, had many positive things to say about the evening.
“It just feels good to be around creative, witty people living in full color, authentically, in a world so seemingly ignorant and gray,” they said. “We had a turnout of over three thousand people in spite of the dreary weather. Our elders were beaming as they led the way towards Stonewall, and people were joyous and free. Our marshals danced and sang, entertaining traffic while our marchers passed by, and crowds cheered. Everything ran smoothly and people really seemed to enjoy themselves and may have even felt a little healed by the march.”
It was hard not to smile as the marchers lit up the streets in outfits that ranged from understated to outrageous. While we live in a place that the late Spalding Gray once referred to as “an island off the coast of America,” it’s still hard to accept the fact that much of the rest of the country cannot accept drag for the harmless entertainment that it is.
In the meantime, people like Hucklefaery have to live with the backlash of malicious right-wingers.
“I’m a volunteer, but now I’m a target because I was seen at an event with over 3,000 people, where one person said something that’s been weaponized and perpetuated by the right-wing media machine,” they explain. “It’s a scary place to be, with no control over your image, identity, or privacy, and overwhelmingly accosted with hate and slander. As organizers, and especially as queer people, we always have targets on our backs, but this is next level.”
“But,” they add, “in spite of all this, the Drag March is and remains a beautiful thing. A place for laughs, love, looks, and of course, social justice. Just ask anyone who’s been.”