Despite the clothes, the makeup, and the glittering sequins, I felt a certain unease as I stared into my bathroom mirror. I never thought I would be the person who fretted so much over what others perceive of me, yet there I stood, sick to my stomach. This NYC Pride was my second pride ever, and this time I was navigating it almost entirely independently. Perhaps the simple fear of traveling alone in such a vivacious fashion just made my confidence plummet away.
All eyes were on me the entire commute to the village. It could have just been my anxiety, but I truly felt people’s eyes scanning my skin, judging me for how loud I was even though I hadn’t said a word. By how loud, I mean how queer of course. I couldn’t even bare looking at myself—the humiliation I felt when accidentally catching my reflection in the subway windows was far too much for me to handle.
The West 4th Street train station is where all the pain faded away. Climbing up the station stairs into the warm, queer sunlight was like entering a whole new world. New York had her rainbow aura throughout the entire month of June, but that day it was radiating the strongest. I admit that I was still a bit in “panic mode,” and searching for my friend in a massive sea of people was pretty challenging. Eventually I did find my friend, though, and being surrounded by so many like-minded individuals made me feel at ease.
This powerful gathering was the Queer Liberation March, a people’s political march with no corporation floats and no police. Countless posters shamed the “cistem” of “rainbow capitalism” that has been ruining the purpose of Pride in recent years. Many seem to forget that Stonewall, the first Pride, was a riot against police brutality and that Pride is not merely rainbow marketing. “We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going shopping” and “QUEER LIBERATION, NOT RAINBOW CAPITALISM!” were my absolute favorites out of all the signs I saw that morning. Pride is not for sale, period. It was fantastically liberating to take over 6th Avenue with our message of solidarity and love; the gays truly ran the streets that day. Yes, my pride is political.
After marching into Midtown, I decided it was time to head back down to check out the scene by Stonewall. I met up with a couple of friends, but in a personally paradoxical way, I wanted to take on the rest of that day independently. It’s lovely to spend Pride with a couple of friends who love you, yet it’s also a very internal experience for many. It’s important to assess your own needs in such a stimulating environment. So from there I went on my own, pacing the blocks of the Village to scout captivating people to photograph.
Being surrounded by so many beautiful queer people made me feel completely at home. I was in Washington Square Park when I realized for the first time ever in my life, “This is where I’m meant to be.” The spirit of it all was comfortingly carefree and full of love, and I knew right in that moment that every particle of my being was in harmony with the world around me. This community is everything good in the world to me, and I want to indulge in it forever.