Few experiences are as life-affirming as attending a Pride parade, particularly if queerness in all its abstract and norm-defying glory is at all a part of your identity. Surrounded by thousands of other queer folks, eager allies, never-ending confetti, and all the bright-as-the-sun ROYGBIV your eyes can handle, Pride is sensory overload in the best way. This year I attended what was not only my first Pride parade as an out bisexual woman, but my first Pride parade ever--and it did not disappoint. I was lucky enough, too, to be able to march in this parade alongside, and as a representative for, one of the country’s most important sexual health and reproductive justice organizations, Planned Parenthood, with two of my best friends. As a feminist, a staunch supporter of reproductive justice, and a naturally political person, I like to take any opportunity I can to offer my physical support to PP, particularly over the past two years, which have been especially trying for those at PP, and its supporters.
One of the best friends mentioned above lends her support to these heroes in pink every day at work, as a pro-choice crisis PR specialist here in New York City--a job that, in the current political climate, doesn’t appear to be losing any business anytime soon. On any given day, her job includes scrolling through the social feeds of anti-choice groups, skimming endless posts about the supposed “evil” that Planned Parenthood commits, and generally losing faith in humanity with every Facebook post or tweet from @FratGuysForLife or something along those lines. Her work, though incredibly important, can often make her feel like PP has no support; like the anti-choice crowd is winning.
Together with another of our friends, we wore pink t-shirts, emblazoned with the word “Proud,” and marched with Planned Parenthood from W 38th and 5th Ave all the way down to Christopher Street in the West Village. As one of the last groups to begin marching, we passed out safe sex kits (complete with male and female condoms, “How To Use” and sexual fact sheets, and Sustain lube!), t-shirts, posters, stickers, and other freebies. We shouted and whistled, whooped and hollered. We danced and waved and kept each other going with smiles. And at every step of the way, we were welcomed by screams with an enthusiasm that I imagine is only rivaled by teenage girls at Beatles or One Direction concerts--those of us in pink were like rock stars to this crowd. Grandparents, parents, and children of all ages, genders, abilities, and skin tones lit up when they saw our sign approaching. We had been out in the sun, waiting to start marching for hours, and yet our spirits and our energies were buoyed for the entire route by the support we received from observers of the parade.
Nothing could have better renewed our hope for the future of reproductive justice and PP than marching at NYC Pride. As a sex writer, too, the enthusiasm for sex positivity and sexual health was beyond reaffirming. There were people at all stages of adult life grabbing for safe sex kits (or two or three) without shame or hesitation; people were not afraid to be seen as sexual beings--particularly sexual beings who were responsible and able enough to take care of their own health.
It would be false to say that the last couple of years (in particular the past, oh, seven or eight months or so) have not been challenging for a queer, recent-grad, liberal-leaning, feminist woman who enjoys making decisions about her own body and the knowledge that all other women will be able to do the same. The presidential election and the ensuing presidency have left me--as with many others in similar positions--with heightened anxiety and depression, and a general feeling of hopelessness and confusion. If only briefly, marching with Planned Parenthood at NYC Pride restored my sense of pride in myself, in my communities, and in my neighbors, and it provided me just the right kind of catharsis that my pink little heart had been needing for quite some time now.
Written by Emma Glassman-Hughes