Gay Pride parade: Amid the celebration, tears for Orlando

Gay Pride ‘fixture’ Boots Babushka: Marching since 2008. Photos by Boyet Loverita and Lindy Rosales

Gay Pride regular Boots Babushka: Marching since 2008. Photos by Boyet Loverita and Lindy Rosales

By Lindy Rosales

It was my first time at a Gay Pride Parade. It’s everything it’s hyped up to be: ear-splitting loud, colorful, exciting, and full of surprises.

This year is somewhat different. The parade was held within weeks of the June 12 dawn massacre at the Pulse gay bar in Orlando, Florida where 49 people died and at least 50 more were wounded. Amid the celebratory flying of the rainbow flags, there was sadness in the hearts of many, tears flowing as New York’s gay community gathered in mourning in what was supposed to be a joyous occasion.

“Last year, it was (happy because of) gay marriage. This year, it’s sad because of Orlando,” said Boots Babushka, known throughout the Filipino American community for her impersonation of singer Pilita Corrales back in the Philippines. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is constitutional.

“The parade this year is longer, more people attended because of what happened in Florida,” Boots added. Media reports say more than a million people came out to this year’s march.

Calling herself a “fixture” of Gay Pride parades since 2008, Boots is a fierce advocate for LGBTQ rights. She would like, for instance, to see prostitution legalized.

“It’s healthier if it’s regulated and monitored,” she told this reporter.

I saw a lot of exposed breasts and buttocks, half-naked men and women dancing in their flamboyant attire. It was a time for unabashed sharing so one spectator pulled up her shirt exposing her breasts for a selfie with her friends.

Security was tight. There were NYPD officers at every turn. Parade marshals used golf carts up and down Fifth Avenue to monitor the pace of the marchers.

The blowing of the horn signaled the start of the parade. The flow of the participants was not continuous, and there long lulls in between marchers, sometimes as long as 10 minutes. Not good, noted one of the parade staff, who said the mayor’s office does not like big gaps in between marchers, and that could lead to a shorter parade route next time.

The VIP guests took comfort in the shaded grandstand by the Madison Square Park. Everyone else received the full heat of the summer sun, some walking in their splashy hats, others armed with bottled water to prevent dehydration.

Facebook had a large contingent. Above the noise and music, the emcee’s voice boomed, “We love you Facebook, another reason why I’m still single” which elicited laughter and cheers from the crowd.

There were marchers from Yelp, Microsoft, Smirnoff, Planned Parenthood, Williams-Sonoma, Mt. Sinai Hospital, just to name some of the businesses, organizations, and institutions in attendance. Gay bars, such as Hombres Lounge and Flaming Saddles Saloon, had their own eye-catching floats.

There was overwhelming support for the mass shooting victims of the Pulse night club in Orlando. It was evident in the messages and slogans carried on posters, placards or in the floats. One group had 49 marchers covered in white blanket representing each of the 49 fatalities. I read messages such as, Celebrate Our Lives While We’re Still Alive; Love Conquers All, We Are Strong; and Love Conquers Hate #Orlando.

I met a fellow first-timer, Anne Cruz, a resident of Roosevelt Island. Her best friend Ally Castillo encouraged her to attend the parade.

“There’s a sense of sobrang relief and happiness, because they’re free, they can do whatever they want,” said an exuberant Anne. “And everybody’s celebrating that freedom na nararamdaman nila, kahit anuman ang nationality or race nila. Masayang masaya ako para sa kanila.”

Ally Castillo, a make-up artist from New York, was with her trans sister Angel Qinan from Los Angeles. The siblings wore long white gowns accented with rainbow colors, courtesy of Michael Kouri, a Filipino designer.

“After what happened in Orlando I’m so proud to be here,” said Angel, a fashion model. “I’m so proud to represent the Filipino community. We are so blessed to be here. This is the time to celebrate and not be afraid.”

The ladies were walking in spiked heels, like some of the marchers who hiked several blocks from 36th Street and Fifth Avenue all the way down to Christopher Street and Greenwich Street. where the parade concluded.

Gay Pride echoed throughout the city that day even on the ride home. On the subway, a transvestite rider was reminiscing the good old days in the 1980s when he dressed up in drag as Tina Turner, and regaling us commuters with endless anecdotes
He conceded that walking in heels during the parade is “really hard.”

More scenes from Gay Pride below, the gay community celebrating amid their grief over the Orlando gay bar massacre.

3 gay foreskin (2)
2 boyet flags
4 boyet orlando (2)
5 gay flag (2)

red line

Leave a Reply