I don’t feel comfortable writing about the nuances of gay pride, as I do not identify as anything considered “queer,” and am not an active member in a movement. Although I believe gay people should be afforded the same rights as everyone, I am not involved in a queer organization and do not go out of my way to engage with the queer community. However, I do have a short personal story about a very important gay pride night.
On June 24, 2011, some friends and I went down to Christopher Street to play pool at a bar and gaming hall that we used to frequent. To us, it was just a typical Friday night; eating dinner with our families and then heading downtown for entertainment and/or dessert. I do not remember what time we entered and exited, but I do remember that when we entered it was an average, even somewhat slow Friday night, and when we left, the street was blocked off, and a crowd was rapidly gathering. We recognized the rainbow flags and pins and realized that it was a gay pride rally. Assuming it was a precursor to the upcoming pride parade, which was advertised everywhere, we began to walk to the subway. However, as we were crossing the street to the 1 train, I overheard someone say the word “bill.” And then it hit me. I turned to my and at the top of my lungs yelled, “OH MY FUCKING GOD THEY PASSED THE GAY MARRIAGE BILL,” in the middle of the crosswalk. Immediately we stopped and began discussing my revelation. After it was confirmed by several passerby, we didn’t know whether to stay or to go. We were five straight guys standing next to the Stonewall Inn at the biggest gay event in years. Were we welcome? Would we get hit on? Was it safe?
After talking it over, all but one of us recognized we simply had to stay to witness such a big event. However, that one person maintained that he felt uncomfortable and was adamant about leaving. I persuaded him to stay by reminding him of the historical nature of this night, hearkening it to being in Selma during the passing of the civil rights act. It would be a crime to leave the landmark of the gay rights movement at such an important time. Even though he personally was somewhat uncomfortable with homosexuality, he was able to recognize that his personal opinions were irrelevant, and it was indeed a huge victory for rights in general. So he relented, and we hung out for a couple hours. Though we refrained from dancing, and instead awkwardly loitered across from the Stonewall, watching the ridiculous party unfold before us, I felt compelled to join in when the raucous crowd belted out the chorus to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” Because on that night, New York was certainly where many dreams were made.
—Photo credit: Tony Fischer Photography/Flickr