Looking back at the parade through still shots (single moments captured in time), brief snippets are constructed, fragments of the whole story pieced together— scattered stills composing a continuous procession of expression and reflection. Through these moments we are left only to guess at the before and the after of these cemented pieces of history. Looking through these now archived pictures, I initially felt removed, as if I was watching an old movie I vaguely recall. In a cloud of rainbow flags and glitter, I remember seeing Chris Bosch (our New Haven nightlife photographer extraordinaire) somewhere along the parade route. At the time I didn’t really think about the imgaes he was capturing; it was only in hindsight that I realized these were not the views that I was seeing.
For the first time this year I had the opportunity to actually be in the parade instead of watching it from the street. Through these pictures, however, I saw things otherwise completely overlooked. I saw our own float from the perspective of the crowd; I saw floats with police and firemen, floats with half naked boys, insane costumes and outrageous drag queens.
Being in the parade for the first time, it never occurred to me that I’d see less of the parade overall. While I was perusing these pictures I had a brief moment of regret for not being able to view the parade in its grand entirety. However, I soon realized that I had not actually seen less of the parade, just a different perspective of it — a perspective not before seen, one that rounded out my experience and understanding of its implications. Until that day, I had always been outside looking in; it was only then, however, that I was afforded the opportunity to look out at what was actually occuring, to pull back and reach a perspective previously untouched: an insiders view of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots—the birth of our plight.
With the advantage of hindsight, I’m only now able to fully grasp the magnitude of this day and the honor I felt being apart of it. I didn’t get to see each and every float this year, in fact I saw only a handlful. What really got to me this year was something I’d never seen before: the riot of support filling every possible inch of the streets lining the parade route; pouring out of every window and fire escape, people cheered and waved flags; every corner, atop phone booths and hanging off roofs, people screamed with greater and greater intensity as we neared the village. Singing, dancing, shouting, blowing whistles and bumping music, the Gotham Citi float embarked down narrower and narrower streets as we closed in on the Stonewall Café, the final destination of the parade.
Gotham Citi presents the fifth annual New Haven Pride Party on Saturday, Aug. 1 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. As in previous years there will be information booths, entertainment, music from DJ Boy Ric and DJ “Boy Wonder” Rob, activities and a great crowd. You can dunk some of your favorite Gotham Citi staffers, including the owner, Robb Bart! The party will then head inside for Gotham Saturday nights, including an after hours that runs through 5 a.m.!
As life usually does, on this day we re-traced the steps of those who came before us, those who suffered and those we lost, but also those who gained and those who paved the way for where we are today. We returned to to beginning. Celebrating, remembering, paying homage and carrying that technicolor torch we once again returned to that famous site where, one day in June of 1969 (the summer of love) a small group of queer outcasts gathered to mourn the passing of an icon at the dank, dungeon-esque basement of the local gay bar.
When the police raided that bar on that day under those circumstances, something happened that NEVER happened before in the course of history. Instead of taking the abuse, the slurs, the hate and the bigotry — instead of being arrested for being gay — our people stood up, fought back and said “fuck no! Not tonight. Not ever again.” While we’re still waiting for that never again, we are still saying “no,” remembering where we’ve come from, celebrating what we’ve accomplished since and working to continue their dreams for our future.
Every year, however, the parade attracts anti-gay protests and general criticism, usually coming from ultra-right-wing groups whos only platform seems to be hate and extreme cultural division. But even mainstream media likes to throw a few jabs our way, claiming the parade to be little more than an innapropriate display of sex and absurdity that instead works to set back queer rights by reinforcing existing stereotypes. Yet, what people seem to miss regarding the gay pride parade is the fundamental fact that it is first and foremost a celebration of rights, a festival glorifying the beauty of human difference.
Underlying this lighthearted expression is a struggle for equality, a struggle that officialy began forty years ago and one that we carry on today—under the law and in our hearts and minds. It is a tribute to those before us, a celebration for what we have accomplished, and a reminder that we still have strides to make in the future. And what more appropriate way to approach this undertaking than a big, gay old party!
The gay pride parade serves as a reminder that established norms are always shifting and always need to be questioned. It’s about pushing the limits of what’s deemed acceptable and “normal;” it’s about crossing these existing lines, built up like so many barriers to our freedom within a larger social and cultural context. It’s about tearing down the old and re-inventing the new, clearing a space for those of us who don’t fit into neat, predetermined catagories and classifications. As JFK once said: “There are those that look at things the way they are and ask ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and ask ‘Why not?’”
Still, almost fifty years later, these words ring true. I truly believe the gay pride parade in NYC (and those happening all over the globe) are working to create a world where people begin to ask themselves ‘Why not?’
The NYC gay pride parade is one vastly important display that (hopefully) works to pave the way for generations to come, to make it possible for people to live without ridicule and fear. And maybe in another forty years those who once again pick up the torch will look back at what we are doing, as we look back on those participants of the stonewall riot, and be proud—proud to say this is where we were and this is now where we are; and it’s because of all those who have come before us that we have the opportunity to live in unity rather than divison, love rather than hate.
Maybe I’m a touch sentimental and emotional, yet it is these small acts such as marching in a parade that are built upon each other to build the foundation for change, to construct a movement and carry on a dream that began it in a small gay bar in the villiage of New York City—a simple yet powerful and, unfortunately, controversial dream that we are all human and we all deserve the opportunity to be happy, in whatever reasonable form that may come.
The parade this year was full of emotion and pride. Representing Gotham Citi, and indeed all of Connecticut, in one of the largest and most historic gay pride events in history was not only a rare opportunity but one that put us at the center of something big, something real that we can be proud of and appreciate. It may be just a parade to some, a day to drink and be gay—and there isn’t anything wrong with that—but it’s also a continuation of a struggle not yet over.
Next time you see Robb Bart, maybe just give him a small thank you for making a Gotham Citi float possible this year, for putting his time, money and effort into such an important event (don’t worry, he won’t bite—probably). The same goes for Michael Longo, who spent countless hours organizing the float and making sure it was a great success (especially corralling dozens of Ct. queens to one location at 7:00am on a Sunday morning—I assure you, no easy task).
And finally to all the Gotham Citi staff who helped out in a dozen other needed ways and all the Conn. gay boys and girls who participated and put this years float to life, bumping and rocking the flatbed from 52nd St. to Christopher & Greenwich St. I just want to say THANK YOU!
So with that said, I hope you realize the importance of building a float, marching it down 5th Avenue (fully clothed, half naked, in drag or just in booty shorts and knee-highs) and thus carrying on a long tradition set in motion before I was born, one that will continue stomping down the runway of life with no sign of relenting. We’ll always have bumps in the road, heels will break and people will stumble—but the only thing you can do is get your ass back up, dust off the glitter and work that runway for all it’s worth, bitches.