The sight of thousands of topless women marching smack dab down the middle of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan would be a pretty provocative thing for the average person to see. For a 16-year-old just beginning to come to terms with her lesbian identity and connecting with the larger LGBTQ community for the first time, it was damn-near nirvana.
The event was Dyke March in the late 1990s, where lesbians took over New York City’s main thoroughfare and militantly made it their own for roughly a mile. There were drums. And human-sized inflatable genitalia. And so many lesbians. Everyone was joyful, and also political — we were there to take up public space and not everyone shaved their armpits for the occasion.
That was my first taste of Pride — a stunning display of multi-colored flesh against the steel grey concrete of the city — and it was incredibly electric. As a lesbian who is no stranger to discrimination or the many ways LGBTQ Americans are isolated and marginalized, I never feel alone when I recall that memory. That was, and still is, the point.