The last time NYC Pride held a full roster of in-person events was in 2019, the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots that kicked off the gay civil rights movement. It marked the first time that WorldPride was held in the U.S., lead- ing to the largest Pride celebration in New York’s history. The March alone drew an estimated 4 million people.
But despite the success of WorldPride, not all was well for Heritage of Pride, the non-profit organization responsible for producing the city’s official Pride events. For years, Heritage of Pride, like other Pride organizations around the country, had been criticized for becoming too corporate, too pro-police, too white and cisgender, too exclusive of marginalized groups, including BIPOC and trans individuals, and too distant from its activist roots.
Fast forward to 2021. A year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the world, and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests called for police reform and racial justice following the deaths of George Floyd and other Black persons at the hands of police, Heritage of Pride’s executive board reached a momentous decision: uniformed officers would be banned from all official Pride events through 2025.
The reaction was immediate and varied. Some activists and community members applauded the decision and others called for a boycott of all NYC Pride events. The Gay Officers Action League (GOAL), a regular contingent at NYC Pride March, called the decision “shameful” in a preemptive press release be- fore Heritage of Pride had officially announced the ban. Dissent brewed even within the Heritage organization: The New York Times reports that in a Zoom meeting on May 20, 2021, members voted to overrule the board’s decision, rejecting the ban; the board later overruled the vote, and the ban was rein- stated. Still, many articles and posts circulated voicing support for the decision.
As the reasons for and the fallout from the cop ban illustrate, few decisions are ever simple or without consequence if you’re an organization tasked with producing events for a large, diverse, and vocal LGBTQ+ community.
If the commercial success of WorldPride illustrated just how far Pride has come since the first Christopher Street Liberation March in 1970, then the three years since have given Heritage of Pride a chance to reflect not only on its success, but also on how it can better serve an increasingly diverse LGBTQ+ community that faces significant social and political challenges.
INCREASING DIVERSITY AND REPRESENTATION ACROSS THE LGBTQ+ SPECTRUM – AND THE GENERATIONS
How does one balance the needs of an LGBTQ+ community that is hardly monolithic, and which includes a wide range of perspectives, objectives, and values? “Carefully,” says Sandra Pérez, Executive Director of NYC Pride. “I don’t make claim to doing it right all the time, but I do think there is an intentionality around including all voices and also being mindful that for a very long time, there was really only one segment of our community being listened to.”
The broader conversation around how to include all voices “has really prompted a real internal discussion” within Heritage of Pride, in addition to the larger public debate, Pérez tells GO. “There’s been a lot of intentionality in the past few years. I think you’ll see that reflected in how we’re working with various segments of our community,” she says. “We’re looking at a trans- formative social justice model that really centers marginalized voices, and re- ally trying to take that intentionality and have it reflected throughout all of the organization.”
Internally, Heritage of Pride features a diverse roster of staff and executive board members, including Pérez, a Latina and lesbian who was appointed Ex- ecutive Director in November of 2021. (Prior to Pérez’s appointment, David A. Correa served as Interim Executive Director following the departure of Chris Frederick, who had served in the position for eight years.)
The composition of the organization “reflects a lot of different segments of our community,” Pérez says. “I feel like the board has committed to that diversity, and we’re trying to make sure that we hold ourselves accountable for that in every aspect of the organization.”
While diversifying is an ongoing process, marginalized voices will be centered at this year’s Pride through the roster of events, speakers, and personalities. Two NYC Pride events are scheduled to address the political and social in- equities the LGBTQ+ community experiences: The Human Rights Conference (June 23) and The Rally (June 24), which both return in person this year. Each of these events fosters dialogue about the most pressing issues LGBTQ+ individuals face, including the proliferation of anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans legislation in state houses across the country, and the threat to bodily autonomy for women, non-binary, and trans individuals.
says Pérez. “This year, we’re placing an emphasis on the anti-trans legislation around the country, highlighting the need to address these issues impacting our community.”
he Grand Marshals of this year’s March are also among those leading the fight for greater LGBTQ+ visibility and rights. Among this year’s line-up are two entertainers: out comedian, writer, and actress Punkie Johnson of Saturday Night Live; and Ts Madison, social media star, influencer, and the first transgender per- son to have their own reality TV show.
They will be joined by three activists, all of whom are also featured speakers at The Rally: Schuyler Bailar, the first transgender athlete to compete on an NCAA Division 1 men’s team; Dominique Morgan, an award-winning activist, artist, and TEDx speaker; and Chase Strangio, a national leader in transgender rights advocacy and Deputy Director for Transgender Justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project.
The role of queer youth will also be elevated this year, in the wake of anti- LGBTQ+ legislation across the country that limits access to medical care and scholastic sports teams for trans youth, and denies resources relating to sexual orientation and gender identity to students in certain states. Amplifying their voices through events like Youth Pride is particularly important “because what is happening in terms of the legal challenges that we’re seeing, the attacks on allies and parents who are trying to raise their children in a world that feels safe, is really under threat,” Pérez says.
“For me, part of the goal is making sure that we lift up that issue and remember that our roots are activist,” she adds. “As a community, we need to really be working together to hold that space open for future generations, because that is in peril.”
FEWER CORPORATIONS, MORE ORGANIZATIONS
Another issue for Heritage of Pride and other organizations in recent years has been the question of corporate sponsorship. One view contends that such sponsorship brings awareness of LGBTQ+ issues into the cultural mainstream, and provides much-needed financial support for Pride events, which can be expensive to produce.
However, others argue that corporate sponsorship is little more than gay- friendly branding by businesses that subsequently draw attention away from the true purpose of Pride: to continue the fight for equality against unjust and repressive social systems. In 2019, the same year as WorldPride, the Reclaim Pride Coalition, a non-profit that formed in 2018, scheduled its first Queer Liberation March, an alternative to NYC Pride’s March. The Queer Liberation March was billed as a less corporate-driven experience that focused on the LGBTQ+ community and the continuing need for social reform.
In response to the growing concern that its March is becoming less political, more corporate, Heritage of Pride has changed how, and which, organizations can take part: more than 75% of all groups in this year’s March are non-profit organizations, and more than half of the marching groups are participating free of charge.
“This year, we are being very intentional in all aspects of Pride,” says Pérez . “We wanted to be sure that the groups marching – and the programs we offer – truly represent the full breadth of our community.”
POLICE PRESENCE AND SECURITY
One mandate that will remain in place from last year’s Pride: the ban on uni- formed police.
There are two issues here, Pérez tells GO, both of which come back to safety. Public safety is a priority for both the organizers of Pride and the NYPD. How- ever, “We know that some members of our community don’t necessarily feel safe with police presence,” she says. “Asking [police] to not participate is our way of acknowledging the harms some of our community members have experienced, and to make sure everyone has a positive Pride experience.”
To maintain public safety, private companies have been hired for security and safety at all Pride events. Prior to working the events, “both security and volunteer personnel are provided de-escalation training for a variety of scenarios,” Pérez explains.
However, Heritage of Pride acknowledges that police officers have and will play an important role in keeping event-goers safe. Uniformed officers will have a presence outside of events to control traffic, and will be present on the perimeters at every protest, march, or event taking place throughout the city to ensure the safety and protection of all. Police will be called in the event of an emergency, as needed.
The police ban will likely be a source of contention this year as it was last, and is emblematic of larger challenges organizations like Heritage of Pride must contend with as they continue to serve an LGBTQ+ community whose members often have contradictory, but equally passionate, views about the collective path forward. Problems will defy easy answers and solutions could pose new problems.
But for Pérez, what matters is how Heritage of Pride continues to face these challenges head-on, growing bigger and stronger than ever while ensuring that no one is left without a voice.
“I’m appreciative of the passion that exists around our organization and making sure that we get things right,” she says. “We may not always hit the mark, but the intentionality is there. We are going beyond ‘trying’ to ‘doing.’”
2022 OFFICIAL NYC PRIDE EVENTS
This year’s NYC Pride has a full roster of events and experiences to celebrate and honor the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. With a mix of celebration, political activism, and entertainment, this year’s Pride has something for everyone!
From family-friendly events to wicked dance parties, human rights symposiums to political rallies to cooking demonstrations, NYC Pride proves, once again, that it has it all.
Family Movie Night
June 15, 2022, 5pm at The Battery, Downtown Manhattan
Family Movie Night promises plenty of entertainment options both on and off- screen. Come early for field games and live entertainment, provided by drag legend Miss Richfield 1981 and Broadway Sings! Stay for an outdoor screening of Disney’s Moana. A VIP package is available which includes four NYC Pride folding chairs and one collectible blanket. Movie Night is free and open to the public, but attendees are required to RSVP for admission.
June 17, 2022, 7pm at Spring Studios, 6 St. Johns Lane, Manhattan
Pride Presents, in sponsorship with the Tribeca Film Festival, showcases the best in queer film. This year’s event includes the East Coast film festival debut of the groundbreaking documentary Disclosure, which explores depictions of transgender persons in cinema and film. Pride Presents will also feature two short films: the queer romance Beautiful They and the animated Welsh-lan- guage film, Leaf Boat.
June 19, 2022, 12 pm at 74 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn
The Brunch is an annual NYC Pride event celebrating Juneteenth. This year’s Brunch, hosted by Chef Sicily Sierra, will be a special culinary experience that includes a curation of Juneteenth food and stories from Black LGBTQ+ chefs, including Roshara Sanders, Trent, and Chef Whitney. Enjoy an immersive ex- perience with an awards ceremony, performances, open bar, cocktail stations, and much more.
The Human Rights Conference
June 23, 2022 from 9 am to 7:30 pm at the New York School of Law, Manhattan
Now in its fourth year, this symposium features changemakers in the community who come together to develop new ideas and approaches to queer activism. The one-day event kicks off with a special grounding moment from NYC-based singer/songwriter and producer keiyaA and continues with a discussion focused on mental health, with interdisciplinary professionals from the Freidman Transgender Center and the Zucker Hillside Hospital mental health facility and psychiatric center.
June 24, 2022 from 4 to 7 pm at The Battery, Downtown Manhattan
The Rally, a call to continue the fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ people and other marginalized groups, comes at a time when conversation, education, and activism are needed most. This year’s event will be hosted by queer activists Raquel Willis and Sage Dolan-Sandrino, and will feature a full roster of speakers, including Chase Strangio, Dominique Morgan, and Schuyler Bailar, who are Grand Marshals at this year’s NYC Pride March.
June 25, 2022, 1 pm at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, Manhattan
Youth Pride offers a safe space for LGBTQ+ young people and their allies to affirm and celebrate their identities. Hosted by multidisciplinary trans creator Ezra Michel and TV host and personality Ruba Wilson, this year’s event will include a headline performance by musician Taylor Bennett. Youth Pride is produced in partnership with sponsors Target, It Gets Better, Sound Mind, Gotham Cheer, Thayers, and GLSEN.
June 25, 2022, 2 pm at Harbor NYC Rooftop, 621 W. 46th St., Manhattan
NYC Pride welcomes the return of Fantasy Days, its iconic circuit party featur- ing rotating DJs, an enhanced VIP experience, and pop-up performances that will tap into your wildest fantasies. Dance the day away on one of the most legendary rooftops in New York City. Fantasy Days is set to return in-person for the first time since 2019, and with an amazing lineup of circuit DJ’s in- cluding Ana Paula, Marco da Silva, Kurtis Jose, and DJ Mohammad.
June 25, 2022, 2pm at 3 Dollar Bill, 260 Meserole St., Brooklyn
Teaze offers some of the most diverse party experiences NYC has to offer! Dance to music spun by a mix of beloved DJs and performers at one of the most inclusive party venues in Brooklyn. Experience four queer parties during this daytime event, centering on queer BIPOC individuals in the LGBTQ+ community.
2-day event beginning June 25, 2022, 2 pm at the Play Lawn, Governors Island
Enjoy the premiere LGBTQ+ music experience of Pride Weekend, now in its new location on Governors Island. Saturday’s lineup includes headliner Lil’Kim, along with performances by Shenseea, Netta, Raye, and Papi Juice. Pop sensation Kim Petras takes center stage on Sunday.
June 26, 2022, 11 am, Greenwich Village, Manhattan
This vibrant street festival in the heart of the Village has something for every- one, and is sure to be a hit with Pride revelers. Happening just a few blocks from the Pride March, PrideFest includes a full entertainment stage, interactive family area, and curated food lineup.
June 26, 2022, 12 pm, Lower Manhattan
Now in its 53rd year, The NYC Pride March is the quintessential Pride parade. The procession will begin at 25th Street and 5th Ave and will wind its way through the streets of lower Manhattan, traveling past the Stonewall Inn, the sight of the Stonewall Riots that kicked off the gay rights’ movement a half century ago. Ts Madison, Punkie Johnson, Schuyler Bailar, Dominique Morgan, and Chase Strangio will serve as Grand Marshals for this year’s March, with Angelica Ross returning for a second year as co-host and featured performer of the broadcast special on ABC-7.
June 26, 2022, 2 pm at Harbor NYC Rooftop, 621 W. 46th St., Manhattan
This year, NYC Pride ends on a high note with Bliss Days (formerly Femme Fa- tale) a celebration of love and light, and of the women in our community. Lose yourself to music by DJ Spinelli, Tru Violet, Boston Cherry, and Rhonda Rox. Enjoy dancers, pop-up performances, and special guest appearances at this highly anticipated party event.
For more exciting details and updates on all NYC Pride events and parties visit nycpride.org.