Parading For Pride In Queens
“I would prefer not to put a label on it,” Jackson Heights resident Amanda Chapins, 18, said. Chapins was one of many who came to support fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates at the 19th Annual Queens Pride Parade and Multicultural Festival.
“I am just a lover,” Chapins said.
The parade, which went down 37th Avenue from 85th to 75th streets, commenced colorfully with an older gentleman dressed in drag dancing with a dove on his right shoulder and pet poodle trailing behind.
The Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee led by City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Assemblymember David Weprin, Councilmembers Daniel Dromm, Jimmy Van Bramer and Karen Koslowitz led the procession. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio marched as did state Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas.
The parade also shared a significant date with the 30th anniversary of the original four homosexual men diagnosed with AIDS in this country during 1981.
Associate Executive Director for the AIDS Center of Queens County (ACQC) Rosemary Lopez worked at the Queens Hospital Center during the city’s first encounter with the AIDS virus.
“Back then it was more or less a death sentence,” Lopez said.
The group was there celebrating 25 years of service in Queens; while Lopez celebrated 17 years as a member and other positive milestones within the community.
“Today medical treatment is different, and you have people who really banned together and started getting educated,” she continued. “Before, patients were afraid of who was working overnight because they were afraid they might not be able to even get a glass of water.”
Lopez personally trained doctors and nurses how to expressly treat AIDS patients and sensitively educate patients’ families as well.
Lopez continued, “Today you can see people taking the medications and AIDS becoming no more than a chronic illness. Back then there were memorial services every week for someone else. It was depressing, people were burning out. Awareness plays into saving lives.”
The event also fell amidst the current civil rights front pushing for equal marriage opportunities and the encompassing benefits.
“No government should have a say whether or not to legalize gay marriage,” Eliana Lezama, a local college student and member of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance group (GSA) said. “It’s not a substance or something you can regulate. There is no comparison.”
Although individual spousal rights like hospital and conjugal visitation, and tenant/ property claims have been granted piece-by-piece, a marriage license would equate the charts and eradicate all legislative forms of discrimination.
“There is just a lack of understanding,” Melinda Moray, 18, a member of the community said. “People fear what they don’t understand.”
“For nearly two decades, the Pride Day celebrations in Queens have increased awareness of LGBT issues,” Van Bramer said. “As we celebrate our many victories over the years, it is important to recognize the work that remains. I am proud to join the tens of thousands standing together in support of Marriage Equality in New York.”