This week, a convergence of gay and transgendered individuals will come together at Albany’s Washington Park in the city’s annual Pride Festival. It’s a celebration of diversity and acceptance of those differences that continues to grow into the largest festival of its kind in upstate New York.
Political figures from across the county gathered at the footsteps of Albany’s City Hall on Thursday in recognition of June being LGBT Pride month. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, County Executive Dan McCoy, State Assemblywomen Patricia Fahy and City Councilman Richard Conti joined representative of The PRIDE Center of the Capital Region in the hoisting of the Pride Flag. All stood under the City Hall’s shadow on a bright, blue sky day, surrounded by the buildings that define the city skyline — the State Capitol and the Empire State Plaza’s Corning Tower. The message they all shared, however, would likely have bristled the Masters of the Universe who first walked those buildings, even the tower named after former Albany Mayor Erastus Corning, completed in 1966.
Each expressed pride in the lengthy strides our community, and society as a whole, have taken to embrace the differences of our neighbors. According to U.S. Census figures, New York state has the third largest population of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgendered adults. With more than half a million LGBT adults, New York is just behind Texas, and well behind California (at more than one million). With those figures in mind, it seems only natural to understand how New York was one of the first states to allow same-sex marriages by law — 45 years after the first gay pride march in New York City.
But, there’s still more to be done.
With any pride event, whether it be focused on sexual orientation or heritage, some people are often quick to ask as to why there is no such an event for caucasians or men. The underlying question is, why should any particular group be separated and lauded for its differences? Why should they be lifted up upon a pedestal higher than the rest of us? The answer to both of those questions would be that, they are not being lifted higher. They are simply being lifted up.
We are all the benefactors of brave individuals who stood up against commonly accepted perceptions that oppressed groups of people. Think of the words gay, black, latino, transgendered, and you’ll still hear the echos of vile epitaphs that were once socially acceptable to use. When the first pride march took place in 1970, it was attended by the few who dared to come out in public, risking loss of job, friends, family ties, and, far short of hyperbole, life.
There is little need for pride festivals for white men, because it’s the white man who has long written the history books. When we still find ourselves adding the “first” moniker in front of an accomplished individual, it means we’ve only just taken the first step towards establishing the country our Founding Fathers envisioned with when they declared every person was “equal.”