Queens for a day

Meet the proud marchers who kick off Pride Month on Sunday 1 at the Jackson Heights parade.

1. Leslie Becker, percussion, the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps marching band
“If New York City is the melting pot, then Jackson Heights has got to be the flame. You’ve got every kind of culture imaginable right there within a few blocks, and then you get the Gay Pride Parade going right down the middle of it.”

2. Marita Begley, artistic director, the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps marching band
“Parades have a chemistry, and we’ve always had a really positive chemistry with Queens. I get a kick out of seeing people who are maybe elderly or who look kind of puzzled by the whole thing, and then you’ll see the wheels turn. They look at the person next to them and see them clapping, and they start to clap along. I feel like I’m watching people’s minds open, watching them have a change of heart.”

3. Dan Perry, sousaphone, the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps marching band
“Queens was my first parade with the group last year. I got there early, so I was kind of hanging around, and it was obvious that there were some people who were very excited, and some that were kind of wondering what the hell was going on, and some that were not very pleased that this was happening. I was actually called ‘faggot’ that day. [Laughs] So it was kind of interesting to have that experience thrown at you on Pride Day.”

4. Lorena Saint Cartier, Miss Atlantis 2008
“I don’t want to say it’s because we’re Latin, but it’s like in the soap operas: We have a little bit more spirit and flavor. We express emotion the way we want to feel it. [The crowd wants] culture, too. They want to see the costumes of Colombia, the costumes of Puerto Rico, of Dominican Republic, Ecuador. I think that’s what makes the difference, because in Manhattan, all the big drag queens have all the big makeup and all that, but in the show everything’s almost the same. You get Broadway or you get the Top 40. But in Queens, we bring a lot of variety.”

5. Eddie Valentin, co-owner, Friends Tavern, the Music Box and Club Atlantis
“Let’s put it this way: On my stage [at the postparade festival], we speak Spanish and English. That diversity alone is what brings everyone out. One drag queen will do Liza Minnelli, and the next Olga Tañon.”

6. Francheska Jones, Miss Atlantis Universe 2008
“The Queens parade is smaller than the one in Manhattan, so we get closer. The community—we all know each other, and that way it’s more fun.”

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7. Richard Burns, parade grand marshal; executive director, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
“I walked in the very first march in Queens. It was warm and exciting; you really felt you were in a neighborhood. You got a window into the diversity of our queer community and the diversity of New York City, and that really does make you feel proud. It’s very inspirational. Sort of a ‘we are everywhere, we are everyone and we will be free’ kind of march slogan.”

8. Alessandra/Michelle, Generation Q youth-services program
“I’m transgender, and sometimes I feel like I don’t belong with the LGB, but all of us are in the same category. We’re all trying to get the same respect. I’ve had my eyes opened a lot, participating in both Queens and Manhattan Pride events. I am originally from Georgia and there, there’s not really any of my people.”

9. Anthony James, Generation Q
“I marched last year, and I’d never been to a parade before, but I thought it would be cool to try a new opportunity that would support not only me but also a nation of people that feel exactly the way I feel and go through the same predicaments. Now I do all of them: Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan.”

10. Marisa Ragonese, director, Generation Q
“What makes the Queens Pride Parade unique is what makes Queens unique: It’s a really diverse borough, and the diversity isn’t just limited to racial diversity. There’s a ton of ethnic and religious and political diversity. Some parts of Queens are really, really liberal, but there are also spots in the borough that are Bush country. The Pride Parade is sort of like a host for all of that diversity that you find among queer people—it’s an interesting cross section of the world.”

11. Sonya, Generation Q
“I am getting ready to become part of a gay-activist type agenda; I went to Albany for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. Ever since that meeting, I’ve wanted to become more of an activist and be more involved in all the Pride events.”

12. Kelly, Generation Q
“I feel proud, like we’re standing for something and that we’re showing people that we’re not afraid. It’s going to make people want to understand us because we’re fighting for what we want, just like they fight for what they want.”

13. Daniel Dromm, parade founder
“One of the ideas that I had when I started Queens Pride was that in order for the LGBT-rights movement to succeed, we had to show that pride goes beyond Manhattan—that the movement goes beyond Manhattan. And I think people didn’t know that it could actually be done. But it was really important for many reasons—for the fact that we let people know who we are, that we’re in your neighborhood.”

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