Into the Streets: Photos from the 2019 Queer Liberation March

PHOTO: Scott Jacobs

PHOTO: Scott Jacobs

Millions of people flocked to New York City to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and celebrate the first World Pride held in America. Bubbles were blown. Bodies were sweating. Drag queens were dancing. Rainbows were waving like an endless flowing river.

And though the event was streamed across multiple platforms, the revolution was not televised.

As the first floats of the World Pride Parade kicked off, the Queer Liberation March was gathering in Bryant Park twenty blocks uptown. 

“This March is a collection of fiercely passionate individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds coming together to make space for our people,” one of the organizers tells me. “It’s inspiring and humbling to think about all of the intellect and care and determination it took ancestors like Marsha P. Johnson or Sylvia Rivera to fight for our rights and risk so much for the people around them.”

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The Queer Liberation March featured no corporate sponsors and minimal police, but it did feature nearly a thousand of queer bodies rebelling and reveling.

Titans of queer liberation marched with us, from Ann Northrop who organized the parade and was arrested nearly 100 times during ACT UP demonstrations in the 90s, to Rollerena, another activist who used to rollerskate down the streets of the Village in the 70s in full drag to Larry Kramer, who I hope needs no introduction.

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Another stark difference: There were no barricades. Anyone could join the masses and march at any point. And as we cried, “Off of the sidewalks and into the streets,” some people did just that, to raucous applause and tender embraces. 

Instead of thousands of smiling spectators, the streets were lined with cishet tourists whose amazed faces reminded us that—yes, Virginia—it is still radical to be queer.

The route was chosen carefully, replicating the orginal 1970 Christopher Street Day Gay Liberation March, also known as the first Pride. That route today contains a two Chick-fil-A’s, the Fox News headquarters, and a Trump merchandise store.

We gleefully flipped those establishments the bird.

And though we were united in anger, there was a sense of unbridled, unapologetic joy. It reminded me of the 1970 issue of Get Out! Magazine, which featured an advertisement for the very first Pride March:

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“What it will all come to, no one can tell. It is our hope that the day will come when homosexuals will be an integral part of society—being treated as human beings. But this will not come overnight. It can only be the result of a long, hard struggle against bigotry, prejudice, persecution, exploitation—even genocide. The homosexual who wants to live a life of self-fulfillment in our current society has all the cards stacked against them. Gay Liberation is for the homosexual who refuses to accept such a condition. Gay liberation is for the homosexual who stands up and fights back.”

We finally reached the Great Lawn of Central Park and sat in the grass, basking in the sunlight and the speeches of the queer siblings who came before us and continue the fight.

All photos by
Scott Jacobs.

Evan Brechtel is a queer writer living in New York. You can find his body of work at @EvanBrechtel.