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World Pride Arrives In New York City, 50 Years After The Stonewall Riots


New York City is draped in rainbows. In some neighborhoods, it seems like they're everywhere - on socks, dog leashes, T-shirts. World Pride is happening there this weekend. It's a historic celebration of LGBT visibility. NPR's Neda Ulaby takes us on a tour.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: You've got to start at the Stonewall Inn. It's not an inn; it's a bar - dark, grimy, old, dating back to the days when gay people were not allowed to dance together in public or even be served alcohol. In the 1960s, gay bars like the Stonewall Inn used to be raided by police.

CHULETA DEVINE: The first time I came into Stonewall, I was 15 years old.

ULABY: This former teenager now cuts a resplendent figure in a shiny scarlet gown and a towering red wig.

DEVINE: Who would have figured? I thought I'd be a football star or something. Now look at me. I'm 60 years old, dressing like a drag queen.

ULABY: Empress Chuleta Devine is a drag queen. This dive bar, she says, is a spiritual home for her LGBT community, and it's gotten fancier since her youth.

DEVINE: Everything was beer. There was no mixed drinks. Who had money for mixed drinks? You got a beer for a quarter.

ULABY: Fifty years ago, drag queens like Chuleta Devine revolted when police harassed them at the Stonewall, one of the few places they felt safe. The riots helped bring LGBT civil rights into the spotlight. Anniversary celebrations here included a commemoration of transgender women murdered in the year 2019.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Jazzaline Ware, Ashanti Carmon, Claire Legato.

ULABY: And a speech by a transgender child.

CHASE: My name is Chase, and I just turned 12 yesterday. And I've been living as my true self for the last four years. I have the ability to be me because of the movement that began right here at the Stonewall Inn.

ULABY: LGBT pride is all over the city, from Caribbean pride in Brooklyn to a leather street fair in Chelsea to the massive parade on Sunday with more than 100 floats from huge corporations like Comcast and Macy's.

MARIAH DAVIS: Rainbow capitalism - they just want to make a quick buck.

ULABY: Mariah Davis has identified as lesbian for half her life. She's 28 and grew up in Harlem. She and her fiancee Petra Vega say they do not plan to attend any parades, not even the Dyke March or the Reclaim Pride event that rejects corporate and police presence.

PETRA VEGA: We don't leave the house. We're inside people.


ULABY: Crowd's too much?

VEGA: Yeah. Social anxiety is real.

ULABY: Pride is more for straight people these days, she says. Pride's mainstreaming is less of an issue for the gay Republicans partying on the roof of an Upper West Side hotel.

CHARLES MORAN: I am a supporter of Donald Trump. I was his LGBT surrogate on the last campaign.

ULABY: Charles Moran, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, is 38. He says he feels more political kinship with Ronald Reagan than the Stonewall rioters, yet he acknowledges World Pride exists in part because of them. Stonewall seems extremely relevant to the experience of royalty from India. Manvendra Singh Gohil is an openly gay prince.

MANVENDRA SINGH GOHIL: America is just treating me so royally (laughter).

ULABY: Prince Manvendra's in New York to continue his LGBT activism. He says he can't come to World Pride without stopping at the Stonewall.

SINGH GOHIL: For me, Stonewall is a temple. As a Hindu, I'm a very spiritually inclined person. I belong to a very old dynasty which is going back to the 13th century. And for me, Stonewall is a place of worship, a temple for me that I would go, and I would stand in front of it and fold my hands and say, Stonewall Inn, I love you.

ULABY: The Stonewall Inn has been a holy site for generations of queer people. This weekend, 4 million are expected to make the pilgrimage for World Pride. Neda Ulaby, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.
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