Experiencing Pride 2018 on the East Coast
The month of June marked LGBT pride month. This is the month where, in the United States and many parts of the world, parades and other LGBTQIA+ positive events are held. These events celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) culture and pride. The events also serve as demonstrations for legal rights such as same-sex marriage or gender spectrum acceptance. Most pride events occur annually in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, a pivotal moment for modern LGBT social movements.
It was June 28, 1969 when Police raided the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. This pinnacle moment sparked the modern gay liberation movement and fight for LGBT rights in the United States. One year after Stonewall, the first march, called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, was organized to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Activist Brenda Howard did a great deal of work to help organize this march as well as create a week-long series of events around Pride Day which became the launching point of the annual LGBT Pride celebrations that are now held around the world.
Every year in June, people from our East Coast community gather in Boston to march in the Pride parade. Wearing “free hug” t-shirts as well as other pieces of pride swag (rainbows/glitter/buttons expressing individual niches of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum), our group marches the parade route offering free hugs to anyone and everyone lining the streets observing the parade. We are known as “The Huggy Group” by the people who organize the parade.
It is hard to describe the mix of feelings that come from exchanging hundreds of hugs that are each one special, each one unique. The sight of someone standing on the side enthusiastically seeking out a hug is exhilarating. One person leaped several feet into my arms, wrapping their legs around me, and just squeezed. There are people who look very serious or lost in thought until, suddenly, they comprehend they are being offered a hug. Then, the grim clouds rise away and are replaced by a warm smile with either acceptance of the hug, a “no thank you,” or an “I’ll meet you halfway” high five. Rinse and repeat this routine throughout the entire parade route. There are the special, private moments where you can see that the moment exchanged between you and another has deeper impact. There is a deeper moment of mutual recognition through eye contact; tears may even arise. Anyone who has participated in sharing hugs in this parade has most likely experienced one of these special moments.
Looking around the event, one can see support and positivity for many different aspects of LGBTQIA+ communities. The young people who are there with something to say or something to show look so much younger. They are surrounded by parental figures who appear to be in full support. It’s easy to feel within this bubble of celebration that the world has evolved into a more accepting place, and in some ways it has.Yet I know there are still plenty of people, both young and old, who do not have anything loosely resembling support of their personal emergence of gender, relationship, and sexuality.
As we finished marching in the parade, a small pack of us made our way to the train. On the platform there were lots of tired rainbows, glittering unicorns, drooping sparkle wings. A vast range of the gender spectrum was represented. This one man shuffled down the platform telling a masculine skirted person how ridiculous they looked. He became angrier and verbally aggressive. We made it through the moment; nobody got hurt. But it was a painful reminder that, even though we were in our joyous bubble, there is still much to do in the area of love and acceptance.
Text and photos by Rich Walkden