For the New York City Pride March on Sunday, the streets of Fifth Avenue and Greenwich Village in Manhattan were packed with marchers — some dancing and cheering, some with resolute purpose — even on the day’s list of events even against the backdrop of both local and national threats.
With its flags and bright floats, it is a symbol of the Stonewall riot of March 1969 that inspired the modern LGBTQ rights movement. According to organizers, it is the largest march of its kind in the United States, with 75,000 marchers and nearly two million spectators.
But since same-sex marriage was made legal nationwide in 2015, backlash over those benefits has grown. In recent years, each successive Pride Month has seemed to disregard new and ever-greater challenges for the LGBTQ community.
Over the past year, states across the country have passed laws banning drag performances and transgender health care, while protests and physical attacks on LGBTQ events and their supporters have affected gay bars and community centers.
Julie Kaling marched with a sign that read, “I’m marching for my daughter”—a fact in more ways than one, as her 18-year-old trans moved from Southern California in search of a more welcoming home. Was roaming around the country with daughter.
“I asked him to pick a city,” Ms. Kaling recalled of the move two years ago, “and he said New York.”
The experience has been hugely rewarding, and her daughter feels comfortable at her new school, Broome Street Academy, but there seems to be a danger attached to any of her visits.
“We know how the world is at the moment. It’s scary,” she said. In fact, his daughter was very much looking forward to marching on Sunday, he said.
The Rev. Nicole Garcia, director of faith work at the National LGBTQ Task Force, admits that today’s hostile climate puts a strain on her: “I’m a gay transgender Latina who has been ordained.” But she tried to brush aside the fears on Sunday, saying her biggest concern was “my arthritic knee”.
Similarly, David Rothenberg, 89, a veteran of the LGBTQ community who stood beside her in a little shade on the hot morning, focused on the joy of the event. “It has dynamics unfolding quickly – it’s complicated, but it’s encouraging,” he said.
Ananya Williams of Chicago, who identifies as gender fluid and uses corresponding pronouns, has shared her journey of that identity on her popular social media account, which has led to a backlash online. The parade is a respite, he said, a place to be “bizarre and happy”.
“Everyone is allowed to change,” he said.
Conservative-led boycotts have raised billions of dollars in corporate losses against companies like Target and Anheuser Busch that once embraced Pride Fest. The backlash has also seeped into the 2024 presidential race, as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stakes his Republican primary hopes on his opposition to LGBTQ rights and clashes with corporations such as Disney, who support him.
Heritage of Pride, which organizes the march, recognized the deteriorating political climate in an open letter earlier this month that was co-signed with organizers of dozens of other Pride events across the country. In it, he warned that the LGBTQ community was “in danger” and criticized “fair weather dudes” in corporate America.
“Despite the progress we have made together, we are currently under siege,” the organizers wrote. “The worrying increase in legal disruptions and targeted threats by extremist groups at these events across the United States is making our celebration events feel less safe. The threats are becoming tangible, dire and can no longer be ignored.”
Those threats have taken many forms.
Across the country, a wave of state legislation has specifically targeted LGBTQ youth, banning transgender health care for minors and barring teachers from discussing gay and transgender topics in schools.
In a report released last weekTwo civil rights groups documented more than 350 acts of anti-LGBTQ harassment, vandalism or violence in the United States between June 2022 and April 2023, more than half of which explicitly identified gay or transgender people as pedophiles referred.
Some of those incidents have been fatal. Last week, a man was charged with conspiracy to commit a mass shooting and bombing at Nashville Pride. Such a plan was carried out by a shooter in Colorado who killed five people and wounded 17 more at a gay bar last November in what prosecutors described as a hate crime.
In the same month, concerns grew after the window of a gay bar in New York was smashed with bricks four times in a month. A few weeks later, the office of a gay New York City Council member was ransacked by protesters of Drag Story Time, who then ransacked his home and attacked his neighbor.
Even the site of the Stonewall Inn, site of the 1969 riots, has not been spared. In the past month, miscreants have attacked the national monument four times outside the bar, leaving dozens of its rainbow flags torn in half.
“Pride feels different this year,” said city council member Eric Bottcher, whose home and office were vandalized, and who represents the neighborhood where the Stonewall monument is located.
“Over the past year, there has been an increase in the level of poisoning in our community,” he said. “Online rhetoric has intensified in school board meetings and even in Congress. Such rhetoric manifests itself in the real world.
Meanwhile, there is debate within the LGBTQ community about whether the adoption of Pride by corporations has weakened the political roots of the event, which has given rise to a different reality, as the brand has come under attack from conservative activists and media personalities. have backed away from that strategy.
Since April, three companies that release Pride merchandise or partner with LGBTQ influencers — Target, Anheuser-Busch and Kohl’s — have lost more than $28 billion in market value. According to an analysis by Axios,
The Los Angeles Dodgers, which was criticized by both liberals and conservatives as it was publicly indecisive on whether or not to honor the drag troupe, this month. thousands of protesters descended on its stadium That’s when he finally decided to invite the drag queens.
And after years of decorating its stores with rainbow colors, according to an employee union, Starbucks this year refused to decorate for Pride at stores in 21 states.
New York was one of those states. On a recent tour of Starbucks locations in Manhattan, reporters found no Pride decorations in neighborhoods known for their large LGBTQ populations, including Chelsea and Greenwich Village.
Even the Starbucks a block away from the Stonewall Inn was rainbow-free.
Lauren McCarthy Contributed reporting.