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Pride Up and Down the Slope

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Under a full moon, a night parade follows daytime festival and bursts out into after-parties

Even before the sun set over Brooklyn on June 10, gays and lesbians began lining up on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope to view the 10th Annual Brooklyn Pride Parade. The LGBT festival in Prospect Park has been followed each year by the nighttime parade through the heavily gay and lesbian neighborhood. The parade began at Bartel-Pritchard Circle on Prospect Park West at the park’s southwest corner and traveled west on 15th Street to Seventh Avenue, and north to Lincoln Place.

At First Street, the sense of excitement in the air was palpable. Under a nearly full moon, a group of six lesbians walked, two holding hands, while behind them, a couple of older gay men walked, also hand-in-hand. At the judging stand at Fifth Street and Seventh Avenue, a crowd waited patiently for the Dykes on Bikes to open the parade, an annual tradition. The women peeled out, followed by City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and her cadre, reinforced in the back by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. From his brightly-lit float, he waved to the crowd, and said, “LGBT spells Brooklyn! We love Brooklyn Pride!”

Attorney General candidate Sean Patrick Maloney, who also attended Staten Island and Queen Pride, followed. Other groups marching included Marriage Equality New York, the LGBT Community Center, the Audre Lorde Project for LGBT people of color, the Lesbian Herstory Archives, Secrets Bar from Sheepshead Bay, Gay Men’s Health Project, the Metrobears, and Men of All Colors Together. Religious groups marching in and supporting the parade included Axios Eastern & Orthodox LGBT Christians, Park Slope United Methodist Church, Dignity Brooklyn, the First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, and the Park Slope Jewish Center.

The kids from the Hetrick-Martin Institute and its Harvey Milk High School were there in full force, and received a screaming vote of approval from onlookers. The colorfully dressed Radical Fairies helped bring up the parade’s rear.

The grand finale of the fireworks display marking the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, held the following day, had the night sky rumbling as the LGBT parade came to an end, and onlookers dispersed to Pride after-parties. On Fifth Avenue and Fifth Street, the lesbian neighborhood bar Ginger’s was full of people, as was the men’s bar Excelsior, across the street.

Although the mood was definitely celebratory, people took a moment to reflect upon Pride and what it means today.

Margaritte Adams, partner of Ginger’s owner Sheila Frayne, said she had enjoyed seeing the Brooklyn Pride Parade grow in recent years.

“The first year there were just a few people watching from the sidelines, and I know it’s gotten bigger; I see the love, I see everyone coming out,” said Adams. She said she had been discussing Pride with some of “the old Rising [Café] girls” and said, “We realized how much safer and freer it is, but are they really showing that pride? I’m excited about Pride too, but I feel like there’s a generation that’s like, is it a thing where it’s a given or a privilege? Maybe we’re just living in Dyke Slope where people won’t gay bash you for holding hands, but you don’t have to step too far out of our neighborhood for things to change.”

Adams said that although Pride was important, there was still much work to be down toward gaining gay rights.

“People are like, you can be gay or a lesbian, it’s not a problem, but it really is a problem—we still can’t get work, we still can’t get housing, we still don’t get the right pay, so you have to step up the pride,” she said. “It’s great that we celebrate on one day, but for me, it’s 365 days a year.”

At the upscale Excelsior, the indoor crowd spilled out onto the already-full patio. On the deck, native Brooklynite Leonardo Randazzo said, “I’m here because I’m proud to be gay. I put myself gay before being Italian, which upset my parents very much, but I think we need a couple more places where we can be ourselves.” Saying Excelsior was his favorite bar, Randazzo championed Brooklyn as a place where “gay men are friendlier to each other.”

At Cattyshack, the lesbian hangout on Fourth Avenue, a daytime barbecue had turned into a raging after-party.

Cattyshack owner Brooke Webster anticipated a great evening all day long, as she enjoyed barbecue music courtesy of DJ Beyonda from Portland, Oregon.

“We’re just glad everyone can come and enjoy our deck and our two floors and we have this fabulous BBQ all weekend going on that people can enjoy, and that we’re so close to the park and the parade,” Webster said. “So many of us queers live in Brooklyn and enjoy Brooklyn, even those who don’t live in Brooklyn enjoy the restaurants and parks, a little more laid-back feel.”

Red Blackwell from the band Inner Princess, echoed this sentiment, saying, “I think there needs to be a better form of community between fun-loving faggots and interesting lesbians, just to get together and rock and roll. To go back to the fact that Manhattan’s too expensive and bring Brooklyn back to being the integrated and radical, fantastic place it is.”

Liz Dahmen, a member of the Lesbian Overtones, an a cappella singing group, was clad in a vintage apron as she tended the grill. She said she liked to think of Brooklyn Pride as “the lesbian Pride, because it’s in Park Slope,” saying that the annual Pride in Manhattan had become too corporate.

“I think we need a new kind of pride,” Dahmen said. “We need more pride just for humanity, and not just for being gay. We need pride for having good politics and being liberal and open-minded for everyone, not just gay people. And I think it’s time to stop making statements—we know it’s okay to be gay, but it’s also okay to have alternative families and different kinds of genders and live in a really diverse world that’s even more than a binary gay/lesbian one.”

Later that evening, as the Cattyshack party was in full swing, Kristin Farrell, who works for the entertainment publicity company Karpel Group, weighed in on pride, saying, “It’s a very important day for the GLBT community. You go through life and deal with homophobia on a daily basis, and when you go to Pride you see so many gay people around, happy, loving, and living their life. It makes you feel like, of course I’m gay, of course it’s important, and this is something that should be acknowledged in our world.”

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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