Our stay in New York City fell during the annual Gay Pride, and we thought it would be fun to check it out. I have attended such events before, in Nantes, Paris and in Ottawa, both as a straight person supporting gay rights and as a photographer.
The Pride March only started around noon, so we decided to have a look at the United Nations Headquarters in Turtle Bay. The complex has served as the official headquarters of the United Nations since its completion in 1952 and the entire neighborhood feels like a country within Manhattan, with the many embassies, diplomatic facilities, missions, etc.
Apparently, the site of the United Nations Headquarters has extraterritoriality status (but it does not give immunity to those who commit crimes there) and some members of the UN staff have diplomatic immunity—I have always found the concept rather intriguing. One thing diplomats certainly seemed to enjoy were the parking rule exceptions: vehicles with diplomatic license plates did the worst parking job ever in the neighborhood!
We then headed to Fifth Avenue to watch the March. It was much busier than we had expected and we ended up taking the subway a few blocks down to find a spot along the avenue—we were right beside the Flatiron Building.
We only stayed for an hour or so because it was very hot under the midday sun, but the political aspect of the event struck me. As far as I can remember, the Gay Pride in Europe is mostly a chance for the LGBT community to promote self-affirmation, equality rights, celebrate sexual diversity and be seen as a social group. Sure, it is political in a way since gay rights are always something to fight for. But it’s also a fun party, and politicians usually stay out of it. They publicly support it (or they don’t) but they don’t campaign during the event.
I was surprised to see that the Gay Pride in NYC was quite solemn and serious, and very much political. The mayor, various senators and other politicians distributed placards and were obviously fishing for votes, some participants were campaigning for Obama and the question of gay marriage was raised more than once in one way or another. The March was also quite commercial, with sponsors such as Coke and other companies that had nothing to do with the event but advertised their products along the way.
I also noticed that people didn’t go as crazy as in Europe, where the event can be a caricature of homosexuality with participants wearing leather uniforms, parading topless or naked, etc. Basically, the tone of event seemed quite subdued.
I get it, gay rights in the U.S. are an on-going battle well worth fighting, especially when some people somehow still think homosexuality is a disease that should be cured, a sin or whatever—I still can’t believe how backward the country can be on the topic. People can be easily offended, so I can understand gay activists not wanting to be too… flamboyant. But still, I was expected a more outgoing march considering this is NYC!
You can see the set of pictures taken in the U.S.A. on Flickr.