Features

Taking it to the streets

New York Journal | With a combination of in-your-face power and festive celebration, homosexual paraders put their cause on display

Issue: "All heart," July 14, 2007

NEW YORK CITY- Four dates in 2007:

On March 24, WORLD published its first special issue on cities.

On May 23, according to UN demographers, over half the people of the world for the first time in history (or at least since the Tower of Babel) lived in urban areas.

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On June 22, WORLD opened its first New York bureau.

And the city celebrated this magazine's arrival by having, two days later, an enormous parade in its honor.

No, the Sunday parade was not in honor of WORLD or the biblical worldview it tries to represent: In fact, nine men and women who said they adhered to that worldview were the targets of obscene words and gestures for four hours.

But more about that in the sidebar: In this first report of what will be an occasional series set in the nation's largest city, let's start from the beginning of this year's biggest Gay Pride parade, which followed passage of a same-sex marriage bill by the Democrat-dominated New York Assembly (the lower house of the state legislature).

Even though the GOP-controlled Senate is unlikely to comply, the gay political victory set the tone for a gargantuan march that was less a protest than a show of strength. It was like the Union Army marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington in 1865 following the Civil War's conclusion, a display of overwhelming force and a warning to the recalcitrant: time to give in.

This grand army of the gay republic marched down Fifth Avenue in nine divisions, with politicians sprinkled in. First came two units of cavalry, one made up of about 180 women on big motorcycles (usually two beefy women per cycle) and the second with about half that number of men. While waiting they kept revving their cycles and relishing the collective noise: no carbon-neutral exhibitions here.

Then came the religious folks, each contingent with a banner: Metropolitan Community, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah . . . Broadway United Church of Christ, Metro New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Park Slope United Methodist, Church of the Holy Trinity, St. Clement's Episcopal . . . St. George's Episcopal, St. Mark's, St. Bart's, St. Michael's, St. Luke's, Church of St. Francis Xavier, New York City Quakers . . .

Their signs from those seeking religious respectability were similar across denominations: "God made us Queer . . . Deacons in Drag . . . Dykes for Christ . . . Gay by the grace of God . . . Called out . . . Our parish is over 100 years old. Our thinking is not . . . God is love for all." The signs of Buddhists for Peace, Culture, Education were a bit different: "I revere the Buddha nature of all human beings . . . We are all Buddhafull."

The third division was a tribute to ethnic diversity, featuring "Color me queer" groups such as African Ancestral Lesbians, Latina Lesbians, Caribbean Pride, and the Lavender Light Gospel Church singing "we just gonna praise you." But after those smiling marchers came an encounter with reality via floats for more than a dozen health groups emphasizing HIV testing and medical insurance changes that would provide short-term benefits for those with AIDS: "ACT UP for single-payer health care for all" and "Drug price controls now."

Amid these public-policy appeals emerged U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who yelled out every 20 yards or so, "I was the first senator to march in this parade three years ago but I'm not gonna be the last." He was the only New York senator to march, though, as Hillary Clinton wisely stayed away: A group of drag queens marched a block behind Schumer, not within good camera range, but too close for a major presidential candidate's comfort. But New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said to be contemplating an independent run for the White House, did march, as did contingents of New York police and firefighters.

Spectators crowded four-deep in front of the New York Public Library near the beginning of the parade route or sat on lawn chairs near the end. San Francisco gay parade features-hookers dressed as nuns, masses of guys in leather and chains-were infrequent. A few leather-wearers swung bullwhips, and almost every float advertising a gay bar featured muscle guys prancing in their underpants. Most paraders dressed normally, though, generally wearing T-shirts on a day the thermometer hit 80.

The fifth division of marchers once again emphasized gay mainstreaming by showcasing participation in leisure pursuits: Big Apple Softball League, Gotham Volleyball, soccer, square dancing, sailing, skiing, running-and the Gay Rodeo Association also showed up. The sixth division displayed corporate power, with floats from Verizon ("We're proud to be part of your community"), Starbucks, Delta ("The official airline of New York City Pride 2007"), JP Morgan Chase, and Macy's. Pepsi, Altoids, and Trojan condoms had advertised their support on earlier floats, and Travelocity, Tylenol, Google, and Showtime were also official sponsors.

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