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By Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D. 

In 2020 and 2021, New York City celebrated “Pride-in-Quarantine.” This year, Pride will be back on the streets of the West Village. We reached out to a few individuals in the LGBT community to get the pulse of the city on “Pride-post-Quarantine.”

International Drag Superstar Ms. Sherry Vine captures the sentiment best: “I’m thrilled to be performing at Pride events again in person and not streaming from my living room! Let’s celebrate and continue marching for equality around the world.” Adds Robert Galinsky, member of WestView’s @OpinionatedQ, “Gay Pride survives everything: exile, discrimination, rape, murder, incest, and yes pandemics. Gay Pride is emblematic of the enduring human spirit and brings further meaning to our existence!”

The main parade, known as NYC Pride, with will start at 25th Street and head down Fifth Avenue, turn west on 8th Street, continue past the Stonewall National Monument, before proceeding up Seventh Avenue and dispersing at 16th Street in Chelsea.

While NYC Pride slept, a fledgling grass-roots parade continued in person during the pandemic: Queer Liberation March. Jay Walker, one of its organizers, says: “We are glad that the Pride experience will be larger this year. The 2020 racial reckoning protests, including Queer Liberation helped the CDC understand the low transmissibility in large, masked, outdoor marches and rallies. Now that our folks are largely vaxxed and boosted, they can feel safer.” Jay also expects that ACT-UP will set up a health fair, including vaccinations, adjacent to the march.

In New York City, there is room for more than one march or parade. Dyke March and Drag March also take place in downtown Manhattan during June, as well as Pride festivals in Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. These grass-roots events speak for participants who have become disillusioned with over-commercialization of NYC Pride. AIDS Activist Sean McKenna puts it like this: “In my day the strength came by seeing the different groups that marched, without a huge party distracting us. Something clicked in me when I saw PFLAG [Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays], I knew I was gay. I think that important subtlety has been usurped by corporations.”

Brooklynite Rose Ray, a supporter of the LGBT community, has been impacted a different way. Here is what she says: “At Barnes and Noble today, I saw: a rainbow pencil case, a gay historical figures deck of playing cards, Pride jigsaw puzzle, and a Pride coffee mug. Pride hats, scarves and hair ornaments abound on streetside tables and local shops.  Some people may be offended by this blatant commercialization of Pride, but it brings a smile to my lips. I love the spirit of self-actualization and of acceptance and tolerance of others that is inherent in the Pride movement.  To me, the commercialization means an acceptance of Pride values by the wider society, and I like it.”

One question that remains unresolved is the participation of the gay cops. Last year, Heritage of Pride (HoP), the organizers of NYC Pride, voted to ban Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) from participating in the main parade. While HoP’s mission statement says that they “work toward a future without discrimination where all people have equal rights under the law,” the ban marks the first time the once all-inclusive group cast out some of its own members. George Capsis, publisher of WestView News, remarked, “with all their successes, the gays have now become like everyone else.” Like everyone else, hating and canceling each other.

GOAL President Detective Brian Downey remains optimistic the impasse will be solved. Says Detective Downey: “Just because we can’t be part of the parade does not mean that we’re not fully engaged and honoring the legacy of Pride. There is so much work to be done and there are so many good things going on and we won’t let the ban denominate our agenda. We’re mission focused.” GOAL’s remains involved in Queens Pride, Brooklyn Pride and volunteering for LGBTQ youth. The group is also celebrating their 40th Anniversary on June 24, 2022 (to attend, go to: https://www.goalny.org/single-post/40th-anniversary-goal-ny-awards-dinner-gala).

Going forward, the LGBTQ movement has its work cut out. An end to bullying and conversion therapy, health equity including a globally accessible cure for AIDS and greater human rights and freedom for all are just a few of the fights remaining to be won. In fact, Bruce Poli, a fellow writer at Westview News adds that “Marriage Equality (United States v Windsor), Abortion (Roe v. Wade) and Civil Rights (Brown v Board of Education) are all members of the same Human Rights family.”

We close with this summary of Pride-in-Quarantine and the energy of Pride-post-Quarantine from Steven Marion of God’s Love We Deliver:

“Quarantine suppressed my freedom of expression and I found myself hiding from others. I can’t help but think of all the decades prior to PRIDE when people were living in such a way, even without a pandemic. I’m glad to be celebrating openly again and I’m grateful pre and post pandemic for all those who paved the way for my freedom no matter what.”

Rockefeller University alumnus and biotech inventor Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D., is the president of Research Foundation to Cure AIDS and the science & LGBTQ editor at WestView News. To support RFTCA, go to https://rftca.org/

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