Sunday, June 1, 2008

Queens for a Day

The annual Queens LGBT Pride Parade marched down 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights this afternoon. Adeet and I watched most of the parade from our corner, joined by a number of children, parents, and senior citizens. I overheard women chatting in Spanish, mentioning that they'd just come from Mass, and a little girl exclaiming over a rainbow made of balloons. Although Vegas-style show“girls” provided plenty of camp, it never crossed the PG-13 line. This was family-friendly flamboyance.

Activists waved placards thanking Governor Patterson for his recent order to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside of New York, and many people chanted for marriage rights. Several marchers held signs equating immigration and gay rights. That message should resonate in Jackson Heights, one of the NYC neighborhoods with the highest number of immigrants (per 2000 census data). It makes sense to me that immigrants struggling for housing, employment, and voting rights might be sympathetic to the gay community's campaign for fair health care and family rights. However, the crowd seemed most taken by the parade’s elaborately dressed drag queens; looking glamorous and female may prove to be a greater outreach tool than political statements.

Latinos made up the majority of the parade population—both as participants and spectators. A group dancing to a recording of Mexican pop star Thalia's "Amor a La Mexicana" grew loud applause, as did a troupe of "Aztec" dancers. Even the parade's sole South Asian group slipped in some espa├▒ol, perhaps capitalizing on a linguistic coincidence. Their acronym, SALGA (South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association), can mean "come out" in Spanish.

The rest of Jackson Heights' diverse demographic did join in the party, especially closer to 74th Street's "Little India." We saw women wearing hijab taking pictures of befeathered drag queens and men in kufis craning to get a glimpse of the divas. Today, at least, we were all Queens.

photos by Adeet Deshmukh

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