When I was a gay, closeted, angst-ridden, oily-faced adolescent twerp living in Suburbia, I would lay my head against the pillow at night, stare at my Angelina Jolie poster taped to the ceiling, and fantasize about being a fierce New York City dyke one day.
I had seen them with my mother on our day trips to Manhattan. This was back in the early 2000s, and downtown held court to a plethora of radical, shaved-head, big-boot wearing dykes, stomping around the East Village, in all their tatted up glory. My eyes would light up as I watched them clutch hands and kiss in the street and flip off anyone who dared to cross them. I wanted to be friends with them so badly. I wanted to date them so badly. I wanted to be them so badly.
Sometimes my mom and I would walk over to Chelsea, which was always a real treat. We would have lunch at the newly-opened Cafeteria, and I would order the macaroni and cheese and my mom would order a bellini. It would be full of gay boys — gay boys in suits, gay boys in tight denim, gay boys in short shorts. There were gay boys with rowdy women in tow who reeked of perfume and had crimson-colored lipstick on their shiny white teeth. There were gay boys drinking and clinking and seeming to celebrate every second of their lives. The whole scene was intoxicating. They would often wink at me, a scrawny brace-face in tattered fishnets and pink, sparkly Dr. Martin boots. I hate to say this because it’s so cliché, but I felt so seen.
My mom loved the New York gays, and they loved her. She was always getting fawned over by lesbians and gay men alike when we were in New York. The women in our uptight town of Westport, Connecticut were always catty and judgmental toward my eccentric mother. In New York, she was worshipped. Maybe they could sense she had a gay kid. Or maybe (more likely) gay people just have really good taste and are intrinsically drawn to interesting characters, the original iconoclasts that “normal” society doesn’t know what to do with. I don’t know. Maybe they just liked her glamorous, floor-length leopard print coat.
I never wanted to leave. My stomach would tie itself in knots on the train ride home. My only comfort was knowing that someday, I, too, would be a New York gay. I visualized myself with a hot, outspoken, swaggy girlfriend carousing around town, hitting up the gay clubs, having a roster of queer friends from all walks of life. I’m not sure how much I believe in manifesting or the secret (I teeter with the woo-woo), but regardless, my glitter-adorned visions came into fruition. I became a New York gay, with queer friends from all walks of life. And while it’s most definitely not all rainbows and rosé, I can always count on it to be one thing: extra.
On a dismal Monday, New York queers burns brighter than a Saturday night anywhere else. On a Saturday night, we shine so brightly that the aliens on Mars need to wear sunscreen to prevent themselves from burning from our vicious glow. New York during Pride? We set the stratosphere on fire!
During New York City Pride, we’re in our prime. Suited up queers who work in finance and don’t have time to frequent the clubs eight nights a week like the rest of us dust off their ass-less chaps and take to the screaming streets. Gay teens fall in love with each other, gawky and awkward, beaming their toothy smiles as they kiss in public for the first time. Baby dykes with bandanas around their necks learn about the good ol’ days — back when the West Village bore multiple lesbian bars — from our more established dykes. Queens show the straight “Sex & The City” obsessed women of Chelsea how it’s really done as they gracefully and stumble-lessly strut down the cobblestone streets in 20-inch heels. There’s more glitter and more rainbows and more unicorns than your Lisa Frank binders could’ve ever dreamed of having back in the day!
This year will be different.
For so many goddamn, utterly important reasons.
But there will still be an energy, an electric vibe, even if we’re locked inside. Because most of us LGBTQ+ New Yorkers fought tooth and nail to get to this flawed promised land. It’s not easy to live in this town. It’s exorbitant. It’s competitive. There are rodents that skitter across your feet when you’re just trying to walk home from a long workday on a brutally cold night. There are drugs and blood-suckers and actual vampires. You will crawl up six flights of stairs only to find yourself locked out. You will live in a hovel that costs more than your friend’s mansion in the midwest. You will ask yourself, “What the fuck am I doing? I’m X age, and I have nothing to show for it because this town has robbed me of every dime.” It’s hard to date because everyone is going a million miles a minute and only reserves a few seconds for sex.
But we stay because there is no place like New York.
We’re proud of what we’ve sacrificed to live here — in this concrete jungle, this urban abyss — among our people.
We’re proud to live in a place that makes us so goddamn proud to be gay.
And Pride is something that nothing, not even a global pandemic, will take away.