My first was New York City’s in 2018. The company I worked for was sponsoring an entry in the March (their first time) and I wanted to march with coworkers I’d only recently gotten to know. I don’t live anywhere near there, so I flew in a few days early and stayed with a friend I hadn’t seen in 30 years and had only recently reconnected with. It was my first time in NYC by myself and I set out to explore the city, visiting parks, riding bikes, and walking – so much walking!
The day of the march, my friend and I found a spot to watch it on 7th Avenue and we joined a throng of other spectators. As the march began and the Dykes on Bikes roared down the avenue, the crowd erupted with cheers and celebration. We celebrated with the crowd for 2 1/2 hours, then walked to Union Square to get some lunch. After that, I left my friend and made my way to the agreed-upon meeting point for my company and once we had everyone, we walked to the march check-in and rally point. We watched the march at its very beginning for a while (listening to the Nancy podcast’s Kathy Tu and Tobin Low announce each group) and then lined up for our own start. We waited for a long time! But we were situated right behind the Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish contingent, where we got to mingle with the Broadway cast and crew. We were somewhere on one of the side streets off 7th (like 25th or somewhere around there) and there was a pair of guys sitting on their fire escape watching us be ready to march. The groups on the street below yelled up to them and they’d wave their pride flags and cheer us back. Then one of the groups bundled up one of their T-shirts and threw it up to the guys, where one of them would put it on. It became our fun little pastime. Each of the groups took turns throwing another t-shirt up to them and one of them would put it on, on top of the previous shirts.
Finally we began marching. Our contingent was announced by Tobin and we entered the parade route, flanked by hundreds, no, thousands of people, all cheering and waving flags and other pride paraphernalia. Our group had a variety of trinkets to hand out – pinwheels, flags, etc – and we had been supplied bubble guns. We made our way down 7th ave waving, handing out the trinkets, and – most popularly – blowing bubbles into the crowd! We had plenty of guns, so as we dipped below half full on the tank, we’d find someone in the crowd and give them the gun so they could keep the bubbles going, and the pick up another gun and keep going!
I started the march walking in the center of the avenue, just taking in the whole experience. As far as I could see, there were people — happy, cheering, waving flags in support… of me! (Not only me, but you know what I mean). I felt… safe! Welcomed! Accepted! Celebrated! Happy! For the next hour and a half, my guard slowly let down. I was among friends — around 2 million of them! I’d never experienced anything like this in my life! By the time we turned on Christopher street, I was walking along the sides, giving high fives to people and hugging people – strangers – with trans flags (with their consent, of course).
The sun was gone and twilight was upon us as we turned onto 5th avenue and headed back uptown. By the time we got to 20th, the lights on the Empire State Building were on – in rainbow colors! The city really does welcome LGBTQ+ people – most businesses had rainbows in their windows and on their doors, and the people in the city were friendly and supportive.
It was my first Pride experience, but not my last. I’ve since been to our local Pride celebration, and returned to NYC for WorldPride where I participated in the rally outside Stonewall on the 50th anniversary and once again marched — this time with around 4 million cheering, celebrating faces!