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Why millions are traveling to New York, Stonewall


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WorldPride, the LGBTQ celebration, is in New York this year, and LGBTQ people of all stripes are making the trek.

That’s right: The trek. People are heading to New York from as nearby as Washington, D.C,. to as far away as Tunisia, Greece and Taiwan. This year, the draw especially comes from the 50th anniversary of the famous Stonewall riots, a pivotal milestone in LGBTQ history.

But is WorldPride the best place to remember this history? Not everyone in the LGBTQ community thinks so. Some are celebrating there, and others are finding alternate ways to honor the moment. 

Here’s a snapshot of what WorldPride is, who’s going, where travelers are coming from, why they’re making the journey in the first place — and why the trip might not be worth it for some LGBTQ people.

What is WorldPride?

Nonprofit LGBTQ rights organization InterPride, which meets annually in different locations around the world founded the celebration. It has designated a different city to host WorldPride every few years. The first city to host WorldPride was Rome in 2000; other host cities have included Jerusalem in 2006 and Toronto in 2014. 

This year, New York is the host city, and events have been going on all month. They include activities like the NYC Pride’s Human Rights Conference, a Tour & Toast historical sites walk and the bike race NYC Pride Ride. This weekend, there’s the famous Pride March, Youth Pride and the PrideFest street festival, among others.

A complete list of official WorldPride events can be found here.

More than 3 million people are visiting the city for the eventsas the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots approaches. 

Why people are going to WorldPride

The Stonewall riots — an incident that became a rallying cry for the nascent gay rights movement — were demonstrations that followed a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, on June 28, 1969. 

At the time, New York refused to grant licenses to bars that served gays, which allowed police to enter Stonewall with a warrant. They arrested 13 people that night.

“The majority of people at Stonewall were either drag queens or gay men of color,” Titus Montalvo, a hairdresser and makeup artist who was 16 at the time, told USA TODAY’s Dalvin Brown.

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Thanos Vlachogiannis, a Greek LGBTQ activist , credits the Stonewall anniversary as part of what’s bringing him to New York for Pride. Vlachogiannis previously traveled to Madrid for WorldPride in 2017.

“This is a landmark anniversary for every LGBTQI person, not just for activists like me,” the Greek activist told USA TODAY. “It makes me feel grateful for the freedom that the riots originated, but also reflect on the people we have lost and keep losing due to homophobia and transphobia. At the same time, Stonewall is about celebrating the victories of our movement and knowing that every day we make history by standing strong as LGBTQI individuals.” 

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Badr Baabou, an LGBT activist from Tunisia, will be attending WorldPride for the first time. It means a lot to him to march and speak for those who can’t afford to. “Homosexuality (is) still a big taboo in my region,” Baabou said.

Jennifer Lu, chief coordinator of the Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, is traveling to New York following a victory: Taiwan’s legislature voted in May to legalize same-sex marriage, a first in Asia and a boost for LGBT rights activists who had championed the cause for two decades. Lu and colleagues will be setting up an exhibition at WorldPride called “The Wedding Banquet,” referencing Ang Lee’s movie of the same name from 1993. “Like the movie, this exhibition brings stories of Taiwan’s LGBTQ+ community, as well as its changing wedding culture, to international audiences,” according to the event’s website.

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What some people are doing instead of WorldPride

Tarek Zeidan of Lebanon is going to the New York area for Pride but opting for a different kind of celebration with Reclaim Pride. The coalition’s Queer Liberation March, taking place in tandem with New York’s Pride parade, aims to curb “the exploitation of our communities for profit and against corporate and state pinkwashing,” according to the Reclaim Pride Coalition of New York’s website.

“We must remember Pride is not just a celebration but a commemoration of lives lost and powerful vehicle for fighting for our rights, many of which remain under assault all over the world despite recent successes,” Zeidan, executive director of LGBT nonprofit Helem, told USA TODAY.

“Stonewall was an intersectional, diverse and popular mode of resistance, which has sadly been largely dissolved in the decades that have past, and we really need to reclaim it, especially in these times when the forces that oppressed us and others seem to be resurfacing en masse across the globe,” he added.

Molly Merryman, founding director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at Kent State University, told USA TODAY that “hell no” she wouldn’t be traveling for WorldPride.

“When I reach a point when our LGBTQ program is as well funded as other disciplines, when our LGBTQ graduates don’t worry about being fired if they come out at work, when my queer students of color aren’t afraid and none of my students speak of physical, emotional and financial abuse delivered by homophobic and transphobic parents — then maybe I will decide it’s time to have a party,” Merryman said.

But for many people, Pride is a time for people to be out and themselves — and the first place for many to do so, Karleigh Chardonnay Merlot, a transgender activist and operator at the suicide prevention organization Trans Lifeline, said. She doesn’t oppose the festivities but wants people to be mindful of the very real work that must be done.

“I’m one of those who believes that Pride is a protest, but I’m not saying take the party away,” she said. “I’m saying make sure we don’t forget the real reason for the season, as well.”

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Contributing: Dalvin Brown and Rasha Ali, USA TODAY; Associated Press

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