Thousands of effusive marchers danced to club music in New York City streets Sunday as bubbles and confetti rained down, and fellow revelers from Toronto to San Francisco cheered through Pride Month’s grand crescendo.
New York’s boisterous throng strolled and danced down Fifth Avenue to Greenwich Village, cheering and waving rainbow flags to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall uprising, where a police raid on a gay bar triggered days of protests and launched the modern movement for LGBTQ+ rights.
While some people whooped it up in celebration, many were mindful of the growing conservative countermovement, including new laws banning gender-affirming care for transgender children.
“I’m not trying not to be very heavily political, but when it does target my community, I get very, very annoyed and very hurt,” said Ve Cinder, a 22-year-old transgender woman who travelled from Pennsylvania to take part in the country’s largest Pride event.
“I’m just, like, scared for my future and for my trans siblings. I’m frightened of how this country has looked at human rights, basic human rights,” she said. “It’s crazy.”
Parades in New York, Chicago and San Francisco are among events that roughly 400 Pride organizations across the U.S. are holding this year, with many focused specifically on the rights of transgender people.
One of the grand marshals of New York City’s parade is non-binary activist AC Dumlao, chief of staff for Athlete Ally, a group that advocates on behalf of LGBTQ+ athletes.
“Uplifting the trans community has always been at the core of our events and programming,” said Dan Dimant, a spokesperson for NYC Pride.
San Francisco Pride, another of the largest and best known LGBTQ+ celebrations in the United States, drew tens of thousands of spectators to the city Sunday.
The event, kicked off by the group Dykes on Bikes, featured dozens of colourful floats, some carrying strong messages against the wave of anti-transgender legislation in statehouses across the country.
Organizers told the San Francisco Chronicle that this year’s theme emphasized activism. The parade included the nation’s first drag laureate, D’Arcy Drollinger.
“When we walk through the world more authentic and more fabulous, we inspire everyone,” Drollinger said at a breakfast before the parade.
Along Market Street, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank were spotted riding together.
In Chicago, 16-year-old Maisy McDonough painted rainbow colours over her eyes and on her face for her first Pride parade.
She told the Chicago Tribune she’s excited to “be united” after a tough year for the community.
“We really need the love of this parade,” she said.
On Saturday, first lady Jill Biden made an appearance at the Pride parade in Nashville, Tennessee, where she told the crowd “loud and clear that you belong, that you are beautiful, that you are loved.”
Many other cities held their marquee events earlier this month, including Boston, which hosted its first parade after a three-year hiatus that began with COVID-19 but extended through 2022 because the organization that used to run it dissolved under criticism that it excluded racial minorities and transgender people.
A key message this year has been for LGBTQ+ communities to unite against dozens, if not hundreds, of legislative bills now under consideration in statehouses across the country.
Lawmakers in 20 states have moved to ban gender-affirming care for children, and at least seven more are considering doing the same, adding increased urgency for the transgender community, its advocates say.
“We are under threat,” Pride event organizers in New York, San Francisco and San Diego said in a statement joined by about 50 other Pride organizations nationwide. “The diverse dangers we are facing as an LGBTQ community and Pride organizers, while differing in nature and intensity, share a common trait: they seek to undermine our love, our identity, our freedom, our safety, and our lives.”
Earlier Sunday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill that would make the state a “safe haven” for transgender youth and forbid law enforcement agencies from providing information that could undermine the ability for a child to get gender-affirming care.
NYC Mayor Adams made a similar move this week, issuing an executive order preventing city resources from being used to co-operate with out-of-state authorities in detaining anyone receiving gender-affirming care in the city.
The Anti-Defamation League and GLAAD, a national LGBTQ+ organization, reported 101 anti-LGBTQ+ incidents in the first three weeks of this month, about twice as many as in the full month of June last year.
Sarah Moore, who analyzes extremism for the two civil rights groups, said many of the incidents coincided with Pride events.
Nevertheless, Roz Gould Keith, who has a transgender son, is heartened by the increased visibility of transgender people at marches and celebrations across the country.
“Ten years ago, when my son asked to go to Motor City Pride, there was nothing for the trans community,” said Keith, founder and executive director of Stand with Trans, a group formed to support and empower young transgender people and their families.
This year, she said, the event was “jam-packed” with transgender people.