I Fumbled NYC Pride 2016 So You Don’t Have To

The usual giddy energy leading up to annual Pride celebrations — New York held its celebration this weekend — was awash with a different kind of fierce determination and a hint of melancholy this time around. On Friday, President Obama announced that Stonewall Inn, where a 1969 riot led by queer and trans people sparked our contemporary LGBT movement, would be a national monument to honor LGBT equality. It is the first monument of its kind. But just two weekends before, a gunman targeted a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, during its own Pride festivities. All in all, 49 people were killed and 53 were injured in what is being called the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

This blatantly homophobic terrorist attack was a horrifying reminder of what’s at risk for those of us who express our gender outside of pre-existing binaries, including the choices we make on who to openly love or sleep with. This tragedy sent waves of shock and sympathy through the LGBTQ community, including those of us in New York where vigils were held at various spots across the country, and served as an invisible wet blanket, weighing down the mood at subsequent Pride celebrations. But for others, the attack was all the more reason to hit the streets this past weekend. In the face of such vicious adversity, we would show the world that we’re still here, still proud. And then there were those of us who just wanted to let loose and connect with other LGBTQ folks because it’s lit.

I found myself in the latter category, excited about experiencing NYC Pride for the first time. But I quickly realized that there needs to be a method to the Pride madness and I had made several missteps. I’m sharing them with you so that come Pride 2017, you’re all set to go. First and foremost, I felt weirdly underdressed. I went with a simple black skirt and top, with a kimono-like shawl that made me feel like someone’s fabulous, but significantly older aunt. I was easily outdone by skin tight and glittering body suits, pink pleather and my favorite, a completely sheer, star-adorned romper with one large star covering the crotch area. And while I adorned my face with a popping blue lipstick, I was put to shame but the dramatic cat eyes and to-the-eyebrows eyeshadow palettes of my fellow partygoers. Rule number one for pride: go hard or go home.

My second mistake was taking the hot spots for granted. After leaving a rooftop day party, my friends and I were excited about hitting a nighttime venue that was supposed to be a marvelous good time and people of color centered. We got there no later than 12:30 and found ourselves being aggressively told that they were at capacity and no longer letting anyone into the venue. We assumed that there were bound to be other spots in Brooklyn that would be just as fun — after all, it was Pride weekend. But Lady Luck was not on our side. Arriving at our Plan B destination, we found it to be uncool, unqueer, and unfun. They kept putting electronic beats over hip-hop and R&B songs, which I understand to be a sign of blatant disrespect and I was among a small handful of faces of color. I was surprisingly shocked by this, after moving to New York from Atlanta where the black gays reign supreme. So rule number two: If you see a spot you want to hit up and there’s an option to RSVP, do it!

A medical condition that is common after a night of drinking caused me to miss Sunday’s parade, where I’d planned on meeting up with college friends. But I couldn’t help but feel like I dodged a bullet there.The hordes of people were going to inevitably make the subway unbearable, Pride parades in most cities are usually cesspools of straight people slapping rainbows all over themselves and making a spectacle of the actual queer people in attendance, and then there’s the weird corporatization of the whole thing where entities pandering to gay people also slap rainbows all over themselves. Watching a video of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton awkwardly walking and waving in the parade surrounded by a hoard of police and security, some other politicians, and Al Sharpton (random) as a highlight of the parade was all the proof I needed of this decision. Rule number three: ditch the parade unless you’re feeling particularly festive in a touristy kind of way.

And last but certainly not least, have sex. I didn’t and that also sucked.