Heritage of Pride: SF, NYC and Beyond
Gay pride celebrations take place today in New York (see below), San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, St. Louis, and Toronto.
San Francisco in particular has a lot to celebrate, as gay marriage was recently legalized in California by the Supreme Court, and celebrations there reflected the development.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A lesbian motorcycle group dressed in bridal veils and wedding gowns lent a matrimonial touch to San Francisco's gay pride parade Sunday as revelers celebrated their newfound freedom to marry.
The Dykes on Bikes tossed bouquets as they led the city's 38th annual gay pride parade down Market Street. Some of the motorcycles were adorned with signs that read "Just Married."
Huge crowds lined the route as city tourism officials predicted the largest turnout yet for the parade, which typically draws tens of thousands.
River Byrd, 48, and his partner, 41-year-old Mark Duncan, happened to be in San Francisco for the celebration as they wrapped up a two-week West Coast visit.
"It's so incredible to see this many gay people," said Byrd, who owns a nursery with Duncan in a small, conservative Tennessee town called Paris. "We're the buckle of the bible belt. If we held hands in public, we'd be beat up."
There is still opposition, expressed today by a group of about 15 protesters who set up shop near the Powell Street cable car turnaround. The group carried signs and a bullhorn and yelled at the crowd, who often screamed back.
Joaquin Benitez, 31, of Modesto, said he was there to "preach the literal interpretation of the bible."
"They say we hate but my response is, is it hateful to warn somebody of danger? And the danger is the lifestyle many of these people are leading," he said.
Once a defiant protest sparked by the discrimination and violence perpetrated against gay people, Pride is now celebrated in dozens of cities across the continent, including New York, where it began, Toronto, Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle and St. Louis, which all are holding their Pride events today as well. In gay-friendly San Francisco, the parade is a veritable who's who of local celebrities, politicians, city leaders and companies, with a wide range of people and organizations - including the city's Police Chief and the public defender, as well as local Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups - taking part.
New York celebrates Gay Pride this weekend, culminating in today’s parade, on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1968.
This year’s theme is Heritage of Pride. The parade begins at noon, and NYC residents and visitors should prepare themselves for crowds in the West Village and Chelsea. Big, big crowds. Wearing very little. And partying very hard.
Currently www.nycpride.org is not responding, but watch this space for route details.
Update: 6th Ave, particularly around the Christopher St/ West 4th Street section of the West Village. Just look for the throngs (and the thongs). My first experience with Pride in NYC was pretty much like that: for some reason I didn't realize what day it was, and emerged from the subway into a heaving, sweating mass of cheering people. I soon forgot why I came into Manhattan in the first place. The best part was watching the fascinated tourists.
Oh, and pride parades are also taking place in San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, and other major cities in the US, as well as around the world.
Thirty-eight years ago, Gay Pride was a very different story:
"Off of the sidewalks and into the streets! Give me a G!"
It was 1970 on Christopher Street in New York City and a few hundred people had gathered for the city's first gay-pride march. And a "march" it was--not a parade, because that day, participants were there to commemorate the riots at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, which marked the beginning of the lesbian and gay civil-rights movement.
"The Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee was to put on this first march," says Jerry Hoose, who was there that day. "Militant march, not parade."
Hoose's friend shot video of that first gay-pride march with a Super 8 camera. The footage is grainy and unsteady but authentic. It reveals the isolation of gay and lesbian life at that time. The marchers walk up a narrow sliver of New York City's 6th Avenue, which is the only part of the street the city allowed to them, followed by police while traffic drives by. The fact that the city did not stop traffic, as is the custom for organized marches today, demonstrates the marginalization of gay and lesbian concerns by elected officials and mainstream media.
"It was hard to go out there on the street. You had people on the sidelines who weren't going, 'Yea, wonderful!'" remembers Laura Collins.
This story will be updated throughout the day.