Pride and Presidents

5am is a very early call time. But there we were, called to the cause, boarding a bus to the capital. We were young, younger, and not-as-young, a perfect mix of perspectives. I, for one, have been attending Pride for just shy of 20 years, and I have seen my share of marches. But for some folks, our trip was a first, and that was largely the point.

LGBTQ Pride, which has its roots in the subtly named “Annual Reminders” of the 1960s, remains an important reoccurrence, each year giving new people a chance to celebrate LGBTQ life, identity, and culture. At a moment when the President is breaking with a 17-year-old precedent of proclaiming June Pride month, our celebrating is certainly a social and political demonstration. In that way, Pride is a vital space for the growth of our Movement.

With Washington, D.C.’s Capital Pride as the backdrop, our destination was technically a journey—the Equality March for Unity and Pride. Stonewall and Levi’s partnered to help New Yorkers participate in this important action, which was inspired by the Women’s March in January. The aim of the March was to bring attention to the threat this current administration poses to LGBTQ people and the many communities that includes e.g., women, youth, Muslims, immigrants, people with disabilities, people of color. While the media narrative unfolds now, having been on the ground, I can say that was realized to a great degree, at least among marchers. Some of the boldest, most powerful signs I saw were those expressing solidarity with marginalized groups within the LGBTQ community.

 Jarrett Lucas, Executive Director at the Mall in Washington, DC (06/11/2017)

Jarrett Lucas, Executive Director at the Mall in Washington, DC (06/11/2017)

Speaking of, Oh, the signs I saw... We are not lacking ideas to convey our dissatisfaction, are we? It seems we are finding abundantly creative ways to say we need a leader, laws, and government that will carry the nation forward. Okay, that and that Trump is exceedingly disliked, which, considering some of the messages I saw, is a generous way to put it. But protests, however peaceful, are about truth, even if just the truth of our frustrations and fears, and that is not always pleasant. But what is pleasant: the music!

When we reached the lineup, just as the March was to begin, we were greeted by the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps, a NYC favorite and Stonewall grantee partner. Their marching band, which has played presidential inaugurations, was on hand to provide soundtrack to yet another historic occasion. Songs like Born This Way, mixed with protestor vocals, made for some rather original scenes. Picture it: Lady Gaga, as sung by thousands of LGBTQ people and allies, filling the thick, humid air, as snipers, peppering the White House roof, move with choreography-like precision. I wondered to myself, would they rather be down here dancing? Cinematic, I know. But a good protest is supposed to build drama, for in that it tells a story, one that can resonate and be remembered, touch and be retold.

 photo credit: The Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps

photo credit: The Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps

As I write this and reflect on Sunday’s journey, my head is a swirl of numbers. Estimates put our crowd at 250,000. How many steps did we take toward the world we deserve? How do we survive 45? Is it even possible for 325 million to become one? And then there is 49, the tragic number of lives taken a year ago at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. How many more will fall victim to stigma?

We have much to figure out, but one this is sure: presidents, by design, are temporary, but pride is here to stay. And Stonewall will continue take people there, in all we do.