Trans activist Brooke Guinan was walking through Penn Station on her way home from work when she decided to check her email. At the top of her inbox was a message from the NYC Pride organizers saying she had been chosen to be the grand marshal for this year’s march. Thinking it must be a mistake, she quickly sent a polite reply telling them they had the wrong person. Turns out, they didn’t. “It was maybe the one good thing that has ever happened in Penn Station,” says Guinan.
RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of Gay Pride in NYC
Part of the reason Guinan was so surprised was that she’s not exactly a big name like prior-year picks Ian McKellen or Jazz Jennings. “I was like, is Laverne Cox busy?” she jokes. Guinan is the first-ever trans firefighter in the New York City Fire Department. In addition to being stationed at Engine 312 in Astoria, she’s also the FDNY’s official LGBTQ outreach coordinator. One of her biggest passions is working on diversity recruitment for the storied city institution. “Women are one half of one percent of the FDNY,” she says. “We all know each other. And, obviously, only one trans.”
The choice of the 29-year-old New Yorker as grand marshal speaks to an overall trend this year of honoring actual activists who do tireless, on-the-ground work, as opposed to figures who might have better name recognition. Joining Guinan is Krishna Stone, a Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) employee who helps organize the city’s massive annual AIDS Walk, and Geng Le, a brave leader in the growing movement for LGBTQ rights in China. Rounding out the list? Gavin Grimm, the trans high school student in Virginia whose “bathroom bill” suit made it to the Supreme Court, as well as local members of ACLU—just in case the point wasn’t coming across.
With her place leading the march now secure, Guinan has a simple wish for the big day: “I’ve marched with the FDNY for seven years, and the grand marshals have always been so inspiring. If one person’s inspired by my participation, that would be my ultimate feeling of achievement.”
The NYC Pride March is Sun 25 at noon and starts at Fifth Ave and 36th St. Free.