kayla kumari upadhyaya
After Pride, Fifth Avenue opens back up to cars, little pieces of parade evidence littering the ground. Trash cans overflow with streams of rainbow, empty cups, feathers and balloon scraps. Plenty of signs that something happened, that we were here, are strewn throughout the streets. It’s a rainbow wasteland, and it’s beautiful. The temporary NYPD barriers, one of the many symbols of increased policing of Pride, are stacked on the sidewalks and removed shortly after.
After Pride, rainbow flags vanish from where they once hung and flapped and declared in storefronts and display windows. Not all of them go away, mind you. The West Village, where my girlfriend works, boasts many businesses that wave the flag year-round. Across the street, Henrietta Hudson--the longest-running lesbian bar in the country--boasts floor-to-ceiling flags in its front windows. But they don’t all stay, and a bit of color is sucked out of my walks through the city. After Pride, the crosswalk on Christopher Street that has been re-painted in rainbow stripes remains, for now. I wonder how long it will take for it to return to blocks of white.
After Pride, rainbow capitalism persists, albeit with less vigor. Every year, the corporate presence at Pride seems to grow, dwarfing the underground, grassroots, unsponsored, and unpolished events and spaces that offer a feeling of home that corporate events never can. After Pride, Heritage of Pride will continue to litigate over their ownership of NYC Pride™. The rainbow ads promoted on my Twitter timeline for everything from Oreos to vodka, sporting hashtags so broad and co-opted that they’ve become apolitical, disappear until next June.
After Pride, brands change their rainbow social media icons back to their plain, unassuming logos. YouTube sheds the rainbow icon and continue to censor LGBTQ content as if queerness is dangerous, something to be quelled rather than celebrated. Publications that don’t pay queer writers and artists on time or at all change their icons, too.
Pride is a protest. Pride is a party. Pride is a declaration. Pride is resistance. Pride is all of these things at once; Pride is whatever you need it to be. Pride is not what corporations package and sell to you. This year, my girlfriend and I skipped the parade and escaped the city to Jacob Riis beach, where we joined joyful queer and trans folks on the hot sand, a makeshift community springing up as they staked their umbrellas and unfurled their beach tents. The water was cold, but it didn’t stop people from swimming out.
On July 1st, just one day after Pride month ends, my girlfriend and I spot a double rainbow peeking over the the buildings on Morton Street. Our friends in Brooklyn have the better vantage, posting stunning photos on social media of the perfectly arched rainbow stretching its way over, seemingly, the entire borough. Having a designated month to celebrate and recognize Pride is vital, but Pride never really goes away. As long as we’re pushed to the margins, we’ll push back. As long as we’re challenged, policed, silenced, we’ll have things to be proud of: the way we push back, the way we keep going, the way we exist when there are people who wish we wouldn’t.