NEW YORK (PIX11) — In 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Reclaim Pride Coalition co-founder Jay Walker said the group felt it was important to take Pride back to its roots: “a fully political march, not just a march with floats with people dancing around in tight shorts.”
“You can have sexy people [and] you can have people enjoying themselves and smiling — but that the entirety of the march needs to be a fight for our right and our lives,” Walker added.
The Queer Liberation March — which has the tagline “no cops, no corps, no b.s.” — was conceptualized in direct response to how Heritage of Pride operated in 2018, Walker said. Heritage of Pride manages the NYC Pride March and New York City’s other official Pride events.
According to Walker, Heritage of Pride started limiting the number of community members who could participate with their groups, while simultaneously allowing corporate groups to have larger amounts of representatives.
Dan Dimant, the media director for NYC Pride, told PIX11 News that the march doesn’t determine the number of participants allowed “based on their status.”
“So, whether you’re a corporate sponsor or community organization … [the number of marchers] doesn’t vary accordingly,” he said.
Dimant added that 75% of the groups represented at NYC Pride are nonprofit organizations. Additionally, 50% of groups participate free of charge.
Walker said the “separation” of the city parade is another reason an alternative was needed in the city. In a parade, he said, all participants are broken up, and spectators are blocked off by barricades.
“There’s no real sense of community,” he said. “You march with your people, and then you never interact with any of the other people. The way that we do it … we all march together.”
New York City’s Dyke March, which started in 1994, also operates independently of the city. Without being beholden to city permits and an NYPD presence, the march is able to keep an “activism and protest spirit,” according to organizer Nate Shalev.
“The first time that I attended the Dyke March was … magical [and] just truly world-changing in the sense that it was the first time that I was really surrounded by dykes,” Shalev said.
Another Dyke March volunteer, Claire Callahan, said the energy at the event is a “very explicit, joyful rage.”
This year, both the Queer Liberation March and Dyke March are channeling that energy and protest spirit by highlighting issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community. The 2022 Queer Liberation March is officially called “The Queer Liberation March for Trans and BIPOC Freedom, Reproductive Justice and Bodily Autonomy” and the Dyke March’s theme is “Dykes for Trans Liberation.”
“We want to put the issues that are really resonant with our community at the forefront,” Shalev explained.
Talking to younger people who make “assumptions” about the rights they get to have makes Callahan feel like an “elder statesperson,” she said, pointing out that so many rights and protections are brand new to her. She referenced a point Walker made on a panel: that the Obergefell v. Hodges decision — which legalized same-sex marriage nationally — stopped some activism “dead in its tracks.”
“[We’re] making sure that we don’t have those points where we’re saying, ‘cool, we’re done. Now it’s just pure celebration,’ because we’re not,” she said. “Not even close.”
He added it’s particularly important for the march to “uplift and amplify” the voices of those who are the most marginalized in the LGBTQ+ community, including people of color, immigrants and transgender people of color.
“We want to lift those folks’ voices, to remind people that the struggle is still going on,” Walker said. “We still have all of these oppressive forces, it’s just that they’re focused on these more marginalized parts of our communities.”
On more local issues, Walker said the 2022 march will focus on how, even in a “blue” city and state like New York, three men who made homophobic remarks were appointed to city positions.
Mayor Eric Adams received backlash after naming Fernando Cabrera, Erick Salgado and Gilford Monrose to city positions. Activists pointed out all three men have a history of making inflammatory remarks against the LGBTQ+ community.
Both the Queer Liberation March and Dyke March are funded through community donations. They have donation portals online, and the Dyke March also has in-person “money honeys” who collect donations at the march.
Shalev said after covering its operating costs, the Dyke March donates to an organization that aligns with the march’s theme. This year, in honor of the march’s theme, they will donate to a community organization focused on transgender issues and advocacy.
Additionally, both marches have measures in place — including de-escalation teams and trained marshals — to keep participants safe.
The Queer Liberation will be held on Sunday, the same day as the NYC Pride March. Walker said marchers will gather at Foley Square starting at 1 p.m., and will step off at about 2 p.m. He expects up to 45,000 people to show up, and no one has to pre-register to attend.
“The beautiful thing about the Queer Liberation March, is you just have to show up,” he said. Those who are interested can also join the march from the street as it walks by.
The 2022 New York City Dyke March is Saturday, and will step off from Bryant Park at 5 p.m. Like the Queer Liberation March, there is no pre-registration required. Shalev said they expect anywhere between 20,000 and 40,000 people to attend.
Callahan, who is transgender, said “anyone who identifies as a dyke is welcome to show up.” For her, gathering with other members of the community and being welcomed is “huge.”
“I would just say that this is a march for you,” Shalev added. “Whoever is curious and wants to attend because they feel some sort of resonance with the word ‘dyke,’ please come. We welcome you.”