By David T. Valentin
Despite the cancellation of in-person pride events in 2021, the spirit of pride was in full swing last year. After the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin, who has been recently been found guilty (with an unfortunately short sentence in prison), protest across the world erupted in solidarity with Black Live Matter groups, protest that have not been seen to such an extent since the Civil Rights Movements of the ‘60s.
Black Trans activists’ groups, such as Brooklyn Liberation, gathered thousands of people stretched across several streets in Brooklyn in order to protest the how Black Trans lives are disproportionately affected by police violence. The gathering gave a voice to a community suffering, a community that has been silenced not only by cis hetero people, but by cis queer people as well.
Given the massive showing of support for Trans lives back in summer of 2020 and Pride getting back to its roots as a protest, it was expected the spirit of Pride and how many people have come to understand what pride is was bound to change going into the future. Though, we were unsure of how exactly it would change. It was all dependent on who is at the forefront of that change and who is willing to accept the change and some of the uncomfortable conversations the LGBTQ+ community needs to have, specifically the racism and transphobia that plagues our community
Although Covid restrictions have been lifted in many cities many Pride events were kept to the virtual space. And while that may sound like a bit of a bummer, the virtual space provides accessibility to disabled queer people, allows both family events and more adult events to take place, and just overall the ease of simply searching up events happening and attending from the comfort of your home.
Not only that, but NYC Pride took a big step in banning police in uniform from Pride events across the city, leaving private security and a reduced police presence in the streets. The decision by Pride organizers sparked yet again a much-needed conversation in holding police accountable for their role in snuffing out queer protests through the past few decades.
And while the conversation may have sparked confusion and outrage amongst police on social media platforms which should have prompted more productive conversations about the role of the police as an institution, one only needs to view any comment section on any article addressing the situation to understand that many police officers did not understand the decision, nor the uneasy history between the LGBTQ+ community and police. For instance, several comments that had wrote, “who are they going to call when they’re discriminated against?” If only they could see the irony of the situation.
So, going into Manhattan yesterday was a bit of an odd experience. Without a parade organized by corporations and a set path for any parade, really, there wasn’t really any guiding light for people to stick around on the sidewalks and gather. At least not down the street on any specific streets, really.
Immediately I noticed the sheer amount of people spilling out from the sidewalks and into the streets, something usually not possible due to sidewalk barriers for the parades. Many streets were either closed off due to the parade and the continued policies of keeping some of the streets closed down for indoor dining, or just the sheer amount of people who were walking about to the point where cars seemed to be completely avoiding going downtown due to the sheer amount of traffic pedestrians were causing.
Rather than entire groups keeping themselves in one spot, waving flags and dancing on the sidewalks as the parade floats go by all while a few people try to push their way through the crowd, everyone seemed to be on the move this year. Of course, there were people parked on the sidewalk, playing music, drinking, eating, and even grilling chicken kebabs, most people seemed to be wandering, exploring, and just experiencing the sheer amount of people celebrating.
And as the day went on, the crowds never let up. The music kept going, people kept dancing, and the cheers of excitement roared louder and louder by the hour. There was never semblance of the party quieting, as is usual when the parade is over, the sun goes down, and everyone scurries on home or into a bar or the feeling that we were packing up Pride for the year until next June.
After months of protests, hard-to-swallow-truths and then having 2021 have a “record-shattering number of Anti-LGBTQ laws,” the LGBTQ+ community seemed to be making the statement they are here. Pride is not just one month in a year, but a fire that is continuous and that needs to be fought for, day in and day out.
Although the parade might be missed by some, this year we exchanged corporate logos and half-assed parade floats for true solidarity and self-expression for all ages, genders, and sexualities and I don’t think we’re ever going back.