I came to the conclusion years ago that being in the New York City Gay Pride march was far more interesting than watching it. It’s the difference between being an active participant versus a passive observer. Besides I love to hear people cheer whenever I go by.
But in the weeks leading up to this year’s pride, I was in a bit of a quandary: who would I march with, or rather, whose float would I ride? See, just as I discovered the fun of being in the march, I also discovered that riding on the back of a flatbed truck from Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street down to Christopher Street in Greenwich Village was a helluva lot easier on my feet, ankles, knees and lower back than walking.
My former employer always had a float, but, well, they are my former employer. My current employer organized a contingent, but there was no plan for a float. I thought about some community-based organizations I used to be associated with, but again, those are past relationships and I didn’t know how welcoming they’d be just because I literally wanted a free ride. So like it or not, if I was gonna do it, it looked like I’d have to hoof it.
My friends in political circles had asked me awhile ago to be more involved with the gay community outreach efforts of the Obama campaign but for time and burnout reasons, I’ve been somewhat reluctant. But the email invite came more than a week ago, looking for Obama Pride marchers and well, I couldn’t resist. Smart move on my part. It was a blast.
More than 300 organizations and a half million people take part in the march. In terms of permit applications it is officially a march, not a parade; a march is a political event that comes with guaranteed first amendment rights that cannot be denied on the whim of some bureaucrat. Moving that many people into parade formation still takes coordination and patience however.
It officially started at noon, but our group and others lined up on W. 54th Street didn’t move until about two and a half hours later, just around the time the clouds burst, the first of three downpours on the day. Actress and former Golden Girls star, Rue McClanahan, rode ahead of us in a convertible as our celebrity Obama backer. Our band of about 60 sign-carrying, Obama t-shirt wearing, rain-soaked marchers kept up a steady, noisy series of chants and cheers that revved up a largely supportive crowd the entire distance. There were a few diehard Hillary supporters with rats hibernating in their butts, but they were outnumbered and even admonished at one point by one of the public address announcers to get behind the candidate, lest we see four more years of Republican mismanagement and indifference to LGBT causes.
Walking the route, you always bump into friends along the way, and today was no exception. Joining me in the Obama camp was even a fellow blogger. who I’m sure will have pictures of the event. Not with us, but present at the front of the line, was Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor David Paterson, who defied doctor’s orders and marched one day after undergoing cataract surgery. His appearance marked the first time a New York governor has marched during Gay Pride. He continues to score favorable points with the community.
I can only assume the Pride Fest down in the Village went on despite the rain. By the end my feet were swollen and in pain and it was all I could do to hobble up to 14th Street to get the train home. Wet and tired as I was, it was a fun day.
Related story: Celebrating Gay Pride and Its Albany Friend