Last June, when the pandemic was still new and vaccines were nowhere in sight, Drag March was one of NYC’s only Pride events to take it to the streets—it’s an unpermitted affair, not a city-sanctioned parade—but it was definitely a much smaller, more subdued affair than in years past. With New Yorkers getting back out there as the city reopens, however, a larger crowd returned this year, and on Friday night hundreds of ready-to-party queens and quite a few kings stepped off from Tompkins Square Park for their 27th annual protest march over to Stonewall.
“I feel like I’m ushering in a new era tonight,” said Philip from the Upper West Side. “This is the first time I’m out hugging people without a mask since the pandemic started, and all my friends are here… I feel like it’s one big birthday party.”
The backstory to all this fabulousness is worth telling every time. In 1994, the official Pride March banned drag queens, leathermen, and anyone else who might frighten off all the new corporate sponsors who signed on for the big 25th anniversary parade. In protest to this obvious indignity, the late Gilbert Baker (designer of the now-iconic Rainbow Flag), Brian Griffin (a.k.a. Harmonie Moore Must Die), and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence organized Drag March, an early effort to “Reclaim Pride” in a battle that continues to this day.
Griffin, who introduced himself to me last night as Harmonie Moore, as in “Harmonie Moore women must die of botched illegal abortions due to the fascist injustices of the American right wing and their psycho Christian lapdogs,” decided to forgo his usual Drag March gown this year, showing up instead in a little leather harness number and not much else, to protest the growing “no kink at Pride” movement.
“I hear people have a problem with bare-assery these days, like I’m inviting them into my kink without their consent,” he said, “so I just figured that’s what I’d do. I’ve actually gotten some compliments on my ass, too. It’s a 57-year-old ass so I think I’m doing fairly well.”
Read More: Your Guide To NYC Pride 2021
The march itself featured loud music, lots of dancing, cheeky chants (“We’re here! We’re Queer! We’re coming for your children!”), and hundreds of amazing outfits, whether sexy, pretty, silly, or just straight-up bizarre. The marchers were cheered on by passersby, and escorted by a small contingent of NYPD officers who stopped traffic on the avenues—the group took about an hour to get over to Stonewall, where they filled the entire block and, in one of Pride weekend’s best traditions, launched into a rousing singalong of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
“It feels so great to finally be out with other queer people,” said Jess of Sunset Park. Her friend Eve agreed: “Pride weekend is my favorite weekend of the year, and Pride month is my favorite month of the year, but even though I’m so excited, honestly I feel a little shy this year. I’ve been hiding my face and staying indoors for so long, so this is like a new coming out I think.”