Gender, Social Movements, Social Problems

Past Tense: The First New York Pride March Was an Act of ‘Desperate Courage’

It wasn’t always feathers, floats and celebrities.

The Christopher Street Liberation Day March was held on June 28, 1970 — the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. “Thousands of young men and women homosexuals from all over the Northeast” participated, The Times reported, “proclaiming ‘the new strength and pride of the gay people.’”

By Andrew Solomon

June 27, 2019

When we hear of Pride marches today, we tend to think of fuss and feathers, of men more than half-naked waving from rainbow-hued, Lurex-draped parade floats, of Dykes on Bikes who gun their motors in defiance of gender norms, of waving gay and trans celebrities. They are fiestas that percolate through the cities and sometimes small towns of the developed world, as well as some parts of the rest of the world, and they mark the fact that gay people exist in numbers, provide documentary evidence that we have more fun and are more fabulous than anyone else, that we are gay in the old sense of the word. The drag queens and gender-nonbinary youth at such events can appear preoccupied with their own ecstatic exhibitionism.

But Pride was not always so unabashedly celebratory; for a long time, it was a radical assault on mainstream values, a means to defy the belief that homosexuality was a sin, an illness and a crime, that gay people were subhuman.

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