Proud and empowered, partnered or not

Jenn, a proud gay Filipino New Yorker. Photos by Ivan Roque

By Elton Lugay

Just two days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the same-sex marriage bill, the June 26 gay pride parade on Christopher Street became more than an annual tradition. It was a momentous milestone for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community.

Close to a million people poured into and around 36th Street and Fifth Avenue to march as well as cheer on same-sex couples, who proudly proclaimed their love for their partners.

“I’ve never been prouder today,” transgender nurse Jenn Lohan who marched with the Asian contingent told The FilAm. “I’m not only a Filipino New Yorker, I am also rightfully in the city where I definitely belong!”

The loudest cheer was directed at Cuomo who said “it’s time” for marriage equality to be legalized not only in New York but all across this country. He marched with Senator Charles Schumer and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The annual parade began in 1970 as a commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots between the police and gay rights activists. Over the years, the parade has come to celebrate gay pride victories as well as advocate its many causes, including the fight against Aids, and the need for tolerance. It’s now known as the oldest and the world’s largest LGBT event.

Another political statement.

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A bit of folksy humor

“Proud and Powerful” is the 2011 theme, and many found it appropriate for the mood of the day. People screamed and danced like they’ve never done so before. The streets were festive and filled with the rainbow colors of the LGBT flag.

While many were overjoyed by the landmark legislation, Italian Filipino couple Giuseppe Rizzo and JR Santos’ comments were muted.

“Yeah, we’re happy the law’s finally passed and all. It’s about time that gay people have equal rights as straight people,” Giuseppe, a special education teacher in New Jersey, said.

“But we’re not ready for marriage yet,” said JR, a home health aide. The couple who met and fell in love online has been living together for three years now.

“This law has no immigration benefits,” said JR, “which is what we really need to legalize my stay here in the States.”

“It’s a basic human right,” said NYPD officer Tony Roxas. But for him and his partner, the soon-to-become law allows them to become co-equals and true partners in making medical and financial decisions.

“Whether people like it or not, the world is evolving and changing right before our eyes. Two generations ago, LGBT people are hiding, they can’t do anything. Nowadays, we can do whatever we want. America is the greatest avenue. It has the vehicle to move you in any way you want,” he said.

Queens resident Elton Lugay is a journalist, publicist and community events organizer.

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