Gay Pride has always been about defiant celebration. New York City’s first Pride parade, in 1970, marked the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising one year earlier, when LGBT people refused to go gently into the night after the police raided a Greenwich Village bar. The parade proved that the Stonewall spirit had legs—and wasn’t afraid to kick them up, despite the shame and stigma attached to leaving the closet.
At times there has been more to celebrate, at times more to defy. At the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, Pride carried added weights of mourning, survival and rage; more recently, it has been an occasion to rejoice following hard-fought victories for marriage equality. This year, again, it is shadowed by horror.
The murder of 49 people on June 12 at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando has reminded the country that LGBT people remain a target of deadly violence and discrimination. To many in the community itself, no such reminder was needed. Gay kids are still being kicked out of their homes for being gay; trans people are still being beaten and killed for being trans; in most states, it is still legal to fire an employee on the basis of sexual orientation.
Yet the LGBT community continues to find solace and solidarity within itself. The parade marches on. We celebrate. There is grief this week for those who died in Orlando and anger at the hatred behind their deaths. Yet there is music, too, and dancing and cruising and more colors than any darkness could obscure. There is never safe; there is only safer. But they can’t take our pride, and they can’t take our joy.
RECOMMENDED: See the full guide to Gay Pride NYC