I was able to stand at 9th Street and 5th Avenue to take in a bit of NYC's Pride March - Unity in Equality 2007. It couldn't have been a more beautiful day. The Grand Marshals were a female rabbi of the country's largest jewish gay congregation and a male bishop affiliated to the christian organization Dignity. Religous groups played a prominent role, including St. Luke in the Fields - my episcopal church!
Earlier in the day at about 8 a.m., I rode my bike west on 9th street and crossed 5th Avenue en route to Pier 40 and my son's little league game. It was still very quiet downtown, with few cars and even fewer people. There was a freshly painted lavender line going down the center of 5th Avenue. Guard rails were not yet in place. I thought about how wonderful it must be to see the beginning of the parade coming from uptown with all its colors, music, costumes and people. I must be getting old because I almost started to cry.
I rode a bit further west where 9th street turns into Christopher Street. The guard rails were all in place. Older gay/straight people were already unfolding their beach chairs positioning themselves in orchestra seats in preparation for the parade three hours later. The Stonewall Bar was quiet, a place I walk by every morning.
It was nice to be alone and to have this time to soak in the specialness of this great day. My heart was filled with emotions that took me back to 1982. At that time, I lived in Cambridge with my best friend Joe. I had a longtime girlfriend and he had lots of boyfriends. We went to Beacon Street to watch a bit of the gay pride march - we'd never seen one before and felt curious about it. Neither one of us was at all political about our identities at that point in time.
In 1982 - the Boston Gay Pride March (if it was even called that back then) wasn't so much a feel good event as a march for equal rights to exist event. Many of the spectators looked on in curiousity or disgust. I stood on the sidewalk taking in this convergence of courage, disgust, celebration, fear, humor and beauty.
Joe and I were there solely as spectators....until someone standing behind me said "look at these freaks passing by - they're disgusting." I looked over at Joe - he looked sad - very sad. That's all it took to get my shanty Irish blood up to a boiling point. I took a deep breath and grabbed his arm. He said "Where are we going?" I looked straight ahead and said "Out there where we belong."
We just plunged in! Both of us 20 years old and totally terrified that we'd be burned at the stake somewhere on this march to an unknown destination. I remember that by pure luck we fell in line behind a bunch of women holding a banner that read "Nice Jewish Girls For Gays!"
That day changed my life. And I finally understood down to my very bones that the personal is political. A few years later, I helped lead a rally into the Boston State House in support of the Gay Rights Bill (it took several years to pass). A conservative legislator came out of his office shouting insults - I led a chant and pointed at him saying "the whole world is watching!" Hundreds of voices came together and repeated these words.
The Boston Herald and Boston Globe were there taking pictures. And although I led the chant, I was edited out of each photo. My friends and I always thought it was because I looked like a nice Irish girl with a gold cross prominently placed across my sweater. An image that wouldn't have played well in Boston.
Wow. That was 25 years ago. How wonderful to see all these religous groups head up the parade in loving celebration and support of equal opportunity for human dignity.
What would Jesus do? He'd march or maybe dance on a float that had a lot of multicolored balloons on it.