Revolution #238 Online, July 4, 2011

Brief Snapshots from the NYC Pride March

From a reader:

On Sunday, June 26, I spent a few hours on a midtown street corner, soaking in the scene of the passing NYC Pride March and talking to those who lined the route. As the evening approached, I was able to go for a short time down to the West Village, where lots of gay and lesbian youth were hanging out.

I wanted to write in with some brief snapshots and impressions of the day.

I definitely felt there was a spirit of community, friendship and love in much of the day's scene. There were many youth at both locations, including many young people of color wearing rainbow flags or ties. Gay and lesbian couples held hands or kissed. I saw lots of smiles and joking around.

The parade included several groups of young people dancing, and on a couple of occasions, I saw youth who were watching the march bust out dancing themselves. I asked a 23-year-old woman of color what she thought of the festivities.

"Besides the fact that it's amazing?" she replied. "There's so much love in the air—so much peace and happiness. I love it."

A 24-year-old lesbian from Missouri who had come to New York for the parade said she was really struck by the size of the crowd (according to the New York City television station NY1, there were more than 1 million people at the parade between those participating in the march and those observing).

"It makes me proud," the woman said, "to not be straight."

In the march, and in my conversations, people voiced excitement and optimism about the legalization of same-sex marriage earlier that weekend; several people said they expected other states to follow suit.

"I guess a sense of joy, a sense of liberation for LGBT people," a bisexual woman of color said when I asked for her reaction to the news.

"A big reason why I came is I felt like it was an important moment in history," a Yale student told me.

The student said he felt there was a lot of momentum currently around the issue of gay rights. "I feel like this is a moment where it is really shifting," he said. "Anybody who doesn't believe in some degree of equality is just looking very backward and out of touch with especially the younger generation."

On the heels of that comment, I asked him where he thought his generation was at politically.

"I've often been frustrated with my generation's complacency on various issues," he answered. "But I feel like gender equality and respect for all different gender preferences feels like it's one of the defining issues of my generation." The student cited the influence of parents who came of age in the '60s on their kids, as well as the fact that the issue of gay rights has become a big topic in popular culture, as two factors contributing to this becoming a defining issue for his generation.

One sharp contradiction expressed in the parade is that, as discussed in Issue #238 of Revolution ("Same-Sex Marriage Legalized in New York: Righteous Celebrations in the Streets") the right to marry—and the many other rights and benefits that go along with that in this society—is very important for LGBT people to have, and denial of that basic right is one vicious way in which LGBT people are persecuted, marginalized, and treated as second-class citizens; for this reason, the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York definitely is something that people should celebrate. However, one form this celebration took at the parade was to celebrate New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a political representative of this capitalist-imperialist system who—it should be pointed out—did not suddenly relinquish that job description when he signed gay marriage into law. Many people in the march held signs reading "Thank you Governor Cuomo/Promise Kept," and the New York Times reported that Cuomo was greeted with heavy cheers. I think this points to something that revolutionaries and others more broadly interested in radical change will need to wrestle with: the illusion that the legalization of gay marriage in New York shows that "the system works" or "the system worked," as opposed to "the system was forced to make an important concession." Other ruling class representatives who marched in the parade included New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Senator Chuck Schumer.

Some of the signs, banners, and other visuals I saw during the parade, which I think—in their totality—further illuminate the breadth, complexity, and contradiction within the parade:

"I'll see your Prop 8 and raise you New York" (Prop 8 is the measure banning same-sex marriage in California) ... A combination rainbow/American flag ... "The Future's So Bright" … "Stop Hate Crime" …. "This is what bisexual looks like" ... "2012—I'm in" ... A sign denouncing the NYPD raid on a Manhattan gay bar at roughly the same time that same-sex marriage was passed ... "Together 8 years—finally we're engaged." . "Love Makes a Family"... "Come Out, It's Worth It, You Can Do It" … "84-year-old boy scout leader kicked out for being gay" (a young man along the parade route, seeing this sign, shouts out, "We love you! I was a boy scout!") ... several people dressed as sailors surrounded by rainbow and American flags ... Two men holding a sign that read, "Thirty years engaged. Let's get married." …. "Think beyond marriage" ... "Walmart you are never gonna get our love" ... "2 Dads/30 years/2 kids/1 mortgage/ A marriage/ I love NY" … "LGBT families for immigration reform" ... A contingent with Israeli and rainbow flags ... "We can end AIDS" ... "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid" ... "Bulldykes not missile strikes" ... "Flaming for Christ" ... "Straight Married Christian For Equal Rights" ... "Gay hero, Free Bradley Manning."

During the parade and during the past week in general, I have found myself thinking a lot about this quote from Bob Avakian, which I think is really important to reflect on, study and take out to people (and I also think it's important to think about the fact that this quote is from the "Making Revolution" chapter of BAsics):

"We also need to be aware of the positive—and in significant ways 'subversive of the system'—potential of the assertion of gay 'identity' and gay rights, even with the very real contradictions in this, including the narrowing tendencies of 'identity politics' as well as conservatizing influences related to traditional marriage, and, for that matter, the campaign to be allowed to be part of the imperialist military while being openly gay. Even with all that, in its principal aspect this has, and can to an even greater degree have, a very positive, 'subversive of the system' effect. This is a contradiction which, in the society overall, is 'out of the closet.' It could be forced back into the closet, and underground, with not only the stronger assertion of the kind of fascist movement that is being supported and fostered by powerful ruling class forces in this period, but with the actual assumption of a fascist form of bourgeois dictatorship. But the struggle against the oppression of gay people is not going to be easily suppressed. We should understand the potential of this as well, and the need to relate correctly to this, to foster the further development of its positive potential and its contribution to the movement for revolution." (BAsics 3:25)

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