Stonewall 50: 50 Faces, 50 Stories, From New York City’s LGBT World Pride
The Daily Beast’s Tim Teeman, Sarah Rogers, and Justin Miller hit NYC’s World Pride parade to hear 50 stories from attendees to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
The estimate was 3 million people, and certainly New York City felt crammed for World Pride on Sunday, as people gathered to parade and parade-watch to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
Earlier in the day, The Daily Beast attended the Queer Liberation March, the anti-Pride Pride, with no flashy corporate floats, and which harked back to LGBT Pride marches as protest. Organizers say an estimated 45,000 people attended it.
The two marches ended up being complementary; whatever your Pride preference, New York City had you covered on Sunday. We spoke to 50 people—LGBTQ+ and straight—to echo the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Their stories and characters showed just how diverse Pride is, however you choose to celebrate it.
Sarah Rogers, The Daily Beast's photo editor, took along a Polaroid camera to record people's faces on this sunny and warm history-making day, and we asked people to autograph their names and ages on the pictures. We also asked them how their Pride was going, what Stonewall 50 meant to them, and what they wanted to see, politically and culturally, in the next 50 LGBTQ+ years.
Naomi, 31, with Mallomar the rainbow-colored pooch: “It’s amazing that we are finally at a point in this country where we can embrace and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and be proud of it, in a way my parents weren’t able to. In the next 50 years, I would like to see LGBTQ+ people represented at every level of power.”
Jackie, 20, New York City: “This is a celebration. I feel like everyone who is in the closet and not ready to come out yet can come here and feel comfortable. Even if they don’t want to dress up they can feel the vibe. It’s a mood, it’s everything. You get here, and you feel excited. You feel everyone’s happiness. You feel comfortable, and I love it.
“Everybody should have equal rights, and that goes for everything, including abortion rights. I want everyone to be happy, equal, and carefree. I want every day to feel like this, with all this good energy, all of it. If Stonewall hadn’t have happened a lot of what we have today we would not have.”
Breckenridge Lanning, New York City (Age: “a lady never tells”): “It’s amazing, everyone has come together this week in an amazing show of love and acceptance. It’s very special. Looking ahead to the next 50 years, I worry about the trans community. The gay community as a whole has had some leaps forward. Shows like Pose are helping to advance trans equality, but it's still important we all help in that work.”
Tim Hunt, 60, NYC: “We both represent many different things. D’Andrey (who preferred not to comment) is an immigrant from Canada. He is Canadian-Jamaican, I’m Irish-English. And we represent two different generations. He’s 25, I’m 60.
“I’ve lived in New York for 30 years. The Trump administration has put us under a different kind of attack. I was here in the '80s and '90s during AIDS, and all my friends were dying. This year our basic rights are under attack: being counted in surveys, our healthcare. I fear our basic rights are being taken away, even possibly our ability to be married and being able to commit to one another and have that experience like any other American has. Every day under Trump feels dangerous. Some days it's really subtle, some days it’s really glaring.
“We have to be very strategic, and use all our corporate allies correctly. In the next 50 years, I’d like people to see ‘gay marriage’ as simply marriage; for there to be no fear attached to having an LGBT identity. Diversity is critical. We don’t want to ever lose that.”
Our conversation with the Macklin family began with aunt Marianne (center in the lovely hat): “I'm from Connecticut, and I'm here with my niece, Alix. She's bisexual. We're supporting her. She's wonderful. This is my first time at the Pride parade.
Alix (second from right): “That’s my aunt! It's great. It's wonderful to be here, it's about love, tolerance, and acceptance. It's wonderful. I hope for normalization, that all of this eventually not being an issue; people being allowed to be who they are, and love who they love. Honestly it's amazing to be surrounded by my family.”
Alix's mom, Beth, appears.
Beth: “Hi, I'm mom.”
Alix: “I have a twin.”
Sloane (Alix's twin): “Hi!”
Alix: “I'm aware of LGBT individuals, friends, who don't have supportive or accepting families. Not having that basis of support changes everything.”
Beth: “I see parents supporting their children and it's wonderful.”
Alix: “There should be openness with everything, no judgment. We should get to a point where we appreciate everyone as individuals. Sloane has been honest and accepting from day one. She was like, 'Whatever,' that’s the point I want us all to get to.”
Glenn (dad): “Being here with my daughter is why I'm here. I love it, and she's a great person. I remember 1969, the Riots. I was 11 years old. I remember watching it on the evening news. I remember in my household there was no judgment.”
Sloane: “We were raised to be logical. A lot of us are engineers and some have law degrees. It's illogical not to accept everyone. We are all human. We are learning about our own species. We should just accept each other.”
Noah, 13, wrapped in the Transgender Pride flag, and mom Jenessa, 35, from Northampton, Massachusetts
Noah: “Northampton has a Pride, but this is my first NYC Pride. It's awesome, I love it so much. It's huge, incredible. The story of Stonewall gives me hope. As someone in the LGBT community, it makes me so happy, and shows that our community is so strong and independent. In the next 50 years, I'd like to see our youth standing up and us having a voice and getting stuff done like passing bills and acceptance.”
Jenessa: “I'm just so proud of Noah. I'm just a supportive mom and so happy. For the next 50 years, I hope we have freedom, to live equally anywhere in the country and the freedom to use bathrooms everywhere. Equal rights.”
Marc Leonard, 48, New York City: “I remember at London Pride 12 years ago, they had a lot of things we didn't have back then, like the military marching and straight pubs celebrating it, and straight parents with their kids celebrating too. Now we do have all that at this Pride, and it's great to see the change in so short amount of time. And this year feels a lot bigger for World Pride!”
Isabella Luis, 24: “Pride to me means being liberated in who you are and having the environment around you where you are able to be who you are. I'm an ally, I'm supporting other LGBTQ+ people here, to show, I hope, that people are not closed-minded and that there are people who care about them and want them to be who they are.
“In the next 50 years, I would just like to see things keep moving forward and progressing. I don’t want to see any steps back: this is 2019, come on! I know it won't progress as quickly as we wish it could, but any progress is better than none.”
George Thomas, 17, NYC: “This is my first Pride. I was always interested but never able to go. I just graduated from high school, so I was happy I could come instead of just watching the live streams. I think there is something very endearing and beautiful in watching everyone coming out to show support for something that even now isn't as widespread-supported as it should be. I just saw an older couple who had a sign that said, 'Married for 36 years but still fighting for Pride.'
“The Stonewall Riots happened because of an abuse of power, and those abuses of power—carried out by the powerful against those with less power—have happened time and time again. In the next 50 years I hope everything will go on the up and up, and that more people are supportive. We need to think about the change we want to occur.”
Chris Coburn and Anne Kazak
Chris: “It’s wonderful to see everybody out today. It's our first time at NYC Pride. We live in Philadelphia. Stonewall means something because people stepped up and made changes. It meant we can be married.”
Anne: “It’s a huge change. We wouldn’t have ever thought that all the businesses and companies would have rainbow flags.”
Chris: “We’ve been together almost 30 years, and married six. It means everything to be married, especially to our son. He was appalled that we couldn’t be married. It was very hard to tell him when he was old enough that we couldn't be back then. He wanted to go and see the governor of Pennsylvania.”
Anne: “In the next 50 years, I’d like to see more protections around employment, and I hope the potential threats posed by the Trump administration don’t come to pass.”
Kirby, 23, Atlantic City: “It’s my first Pride. It's really fun. I'm enjoying it with family and friends. I feel like we have come a long way since Stonewall, and yet still have a lot left to tackle.
“In the future, we need to focus on ‘Black Trans Lives Matter.’ They should be respected. They started all this. We get caught up in the glamour and outfits of Pride, but it’s a lot deeper than people pretend it is. If it wasn’t for trans people we wouldn't be celebrating things like this.”
Amanda, 24, East Brunswick, New Jersey: “The 50th anniversary of Stonewall is a great thing to celebrate, and it's good to see so many people here. But I feel it's much more corporate-driven than community-driven as it used to be. I know it's good because corporations help spread a good message, and it's good that they help get a positive message spread globally. But I would like to see a more community feel.
“In the future, I want to see white allies and the white LGBT community come out for people of color and the trans community and help bring them to the forefront—and use their privilege to raise other people up who don’t have that privilege. World Pride is the perfect time to send that message. I hope Pride becomes more progressive, accepting, and welcoming.”
Ryan Eilerman, 25, living in upstate New York: “It's my second NYC Pride. It's always emotional, especially at the beginning when you see the people offering mom and dad hugs. This year, it feels so much more diverse than last year. It's great to hear so many different languages being spoken.
“Stonewall 50 for me reflects how hard it is coming from the Bible Belt where you don’t have exposure to any of this history. You have to culture yourself or get cultured when you come out to learn about the people who came before you, who suffered and fought for you. The 50th anniversary reminds me how privileged we are in 2019. You come here and feel all the energy and love, it's very emotional.
“There's still discrimination within the community. We need more dialogue, understanding, and empathy. The main issues right now are around trans rights, especially with the military ban.
“Yes, wearing this [Bisexual People Exist] t-shirt is extremely important to me. It's a constant struggle for anyone who doesn't fit in to any specific group or binary. You;'re always struggling for validity. Moments like this, wearing a t-shirt like this, I hope may give some people some confidence and help them feel more secure.
“It's also a way for me to connect to other people. There was a lady working my hotel elevator, who saw it, and told me she was bisexual. We're so invisible to each other, it's too easy to feel alone. The t-shirt has been a great conversation starter, and helps connect me to other people who share my experience.”
Alec, 19 (center in cropped t-shirt, surrounded by his friends): “It's amazing, it's my first Pride, and everyone is being super-positive. It's great to be part of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. We have come so far, and it's awesome to see so many people from around the world.”
Ismael Llano, 40, Miami: “I'm 10 years younger than the Stonewall Riots. It's amazing that we can have this event, and within my lifetime see this acceptance and celebration. It's insane to me, but in the best way possible.
“The next 50 years? I'm gonna be 90, so I hope there will be definitely lots of ramps for wheelchairs! Seriously, I hope Pride is bigger and better, and maybe not as necessary—just another thing on the calendar. We have to keep vigilant. If we retain that perspective and drive we’ll be all right.”
Alexa, 22, Connecticut: “It's my first NYC Pride. I love it, and I'm a little overwhelmed. I've been out for two years, I'm open to my family. It's a really big experience for me, and I'm loving it. For the future, everything we're taking over is changing. No one looks at us and thinks, 'You're gay'—no, we're people. We have feelings. The only thing that makes us different is that we fall in love differently.”
Rian, 27, Trinidad and Tobago: “It's my first Pride in New York City, and my first time in New York City. It's amazing. I'm really excited to see it on this big scale. It's overwhelming to see all the colors and all the various people.
“I went to the Stonewall Inn last night to take in the history and see where this started. It's very touching, to see our community come together and see how far we have come. It means a lot.
“In the next 50 years, I would like to see Pride become less commercialized and more community-focused. It has definitely become too corporate, and everything costs so much. This is not supposed to be catering to those who are more privileged but rather to those who don’t have resources, who have less, who are on the streets, who don’t have houses to go back to. Those are the ones who really need Pride.”
Danielle, 25, New York City: “I'm enjoying it a lot. It's my first Pride. There's a bazillion people. I feel the community vibes everywhere. It's a really great environment to be in right now. We have to remember where this came from. We wouldn't be able to have this big celebration out in the open without the work of all those who came before us. I'm so grateful for that.
“I want it to keep growing, to see acceptance of the community to grow, and extend to places in the world where people do not have the privilege to celebrate as openly as we are able to do. I would like to see more awareness and solidarity to other countries in the world.”
Logik, 34, from the Bronx, with Joker, the Colombian redtailed boa: “I've come down to show off the snake, and support those members of my family who are gay. I'm straight, but to me love is love. You can't judge anyone for their sexual orientation. Stonewall was a really good milestone. I stand alongside them. It bothers me to see discrimination.
“I don’t believe in prejudice. I'm Puerto Rican, and I've been fighting for Puerto Rico these last few years. We go through the same struggles. We have a stupid president who doesn’t want certain things done for the LGBTQ community and the Latino community. We have to stand up together and fight for each other. I want to see a lot more equality for everyone.”
Kenneth, 28, Orlando: “This is a pretty good Pride so far. The Stonewall 50th anniversary is a big thing for gay rights. In the next 50 years, I would like to see more acceptance for everyone. I want LGBT people to have the same rights we all do.”
Claire, 19, NYC: “I love seeing all the diversity, and everyone coming together. It's really beautiful. Everyone is so happy in themselves and free. It's lovely. In the future, I just want everyone in the community to be seen as people and have the same rights as everyone else gets. I want not to be afraid for myself and others going out in public and being themselves.”
Jefferson Pedace, 28, Brazil: “This is my first time in New York City. I helped organize Pride festivities in Sao Paolo. This is fantastic, and I am very happy.”
Brian, 35, New York City: “I come here every year. I love it. It's a fun atmosphere, very exciting, a lot of love and positive energy. It's great. If the people at Stonewall hadn’t stood up, we might not be here enjoying the freedoms and liberties we have.
“I'm happy with everything we have accomplished, and I'm looking forward for the legislation being put in place to make sure the opportunities we've been given aren’t turned back, like marriage equality. We've done well, but the legislation needs to be set in stone and being made certain to stick around.”
Victor, 36, New York City: “Pride feels great, there are a lot of people. The 50th anniversary of Stonewall shows how important identity is. In the next 50 years, I would like to see more visibility.”
Caitlin, 28, Staten Island: “This is my first Pride in five years, the Stonewall anniversary brought me down. It's a lovely day.”
Eliza Bonet, 30, and Jake Haynie, 32
Eliza: “It’s a huge step forward for all of us. The fact we all get to be here joined together and be who we truly are is magnificent. Not everyone in the world gets to do that. It’s special.”
Jake: “In the next 50 years we should focus on basic human rights, and the terrible things happening in other countries, like Chechnya. We forget how lucky we are.”
Eliza: “I want us, everyone, to be in this together. I want all of us to be seen as people, just like everyone else. I hope we can all come together to fight alongside one another in the future.”
Roly, 23, Miami: “It's an amazing experience. I've never been to New York City. There's so much spirit here. To me, Stonewall means freedom, we're here, we made it through. We are finally here, open to the world and here to stay. It's great to see so many people from around the world together in one place.”
Andy, 45, New York City: “This is amazing, the biggest crowd I've ever seen, with all sorts of people—it's wonderful. It shows how far we have come in a very short 50 years. It makes me think about the state of human rights overall. We've come a long way, and there is a long way to go. In the next 50 years, I would love it to be not so much a big thing, because nobody cares. That's what I'd like to see.”
Marshall, 27, Atlanta: “To me, marking Stonewall 50 means hopefully things are becoming easier for everyone to be themselves. In the next 50 years, I'm hoping for everyone to be less judgmental.”
David, 29, Philadelphia (with rainbow neckerchief): “As we celebrate Stonewall 50, I wish there was a greater appreciation for times past. I grew up in a time where being gay was accepted. Part of this anniversary is learning that once upon a time it wasn’t. That makes you feel introspective. I don’t appreciate it and I want to.
“In the future, part of the community seems to want to be assimilationist, and for LGBT not to be an identifier that sets us apart, and another part of the community wants to be separate and counter cultural. There are two things happening at the same time.”
Dave, 28, NYC: “It’s so fun and feels really positive. It’s bigger and louder than ever before. In the next 50 years, I hope to see more equality and progress for everyone.”
Lauren, 20, New Jersey: “It’s my first Pride. It’s nice to be around a lot of happy, proud people. It’s nice to hear music and see people dancing.
“Stonewall was a riot. This is not a riot. It’s interesting to see the change of that anger and wanting freedom to having some sense of freedom and happiness. I would like everyone to feel free to be themselves, no matter the culture they came from. I’m non-binary, and more work needs to be done within the gay community around acceptance of trans people. A lot of trans phobia within the community needs to be confronted.”
Demetrius, 18, New Jersey: “This is my first Pride, and overwhelming in a good way. I feel like we have come so far already and still have a long way to go. There’s more equality in the workplace, and more equality in schools, although LGBTQ schoolkids don’t feel safe in schools. I didn’t in my first two years at school, and that made it hard to feel comfortable with myself.”
Edward, 26, New York City (left wearing rainbow pin): “The Stonewall 50th anniversary means this is a huge celebration. Pride is not as political as it used to be, but I think a lot of people come here for it as a celebration, and it feels like it is meant as a celebration.
“We are all in New York City studying, and from various countries: Ecuador, Austria, and France. It's a pleasure to celebrate here. I would really like the idea of the Stonewall Riots to spread around the world, to countries that need LGBT liberation.”
Paul, 35, New York City: “It's a fabulous Pride this year, very welcoming and very celebratory. I am very happy to witness the 50th anniversary of Stonewall because 50 years is a long time.
“In the next 50 years, I hope that being LGBT will not be an issue any more. As you can see, there are so many young people here celebrating. I hope they understand the importance of just being yourself, and understand that they have the freedom to do that and not be scared to be themselves.”
Raven, 21, New Jersey: “It's so amazing, there is so much love in the air. A lot of black drag queens are a big part of this movement, and just being a black woman and being able to embrace that kind of culture means I hope I am uplifting it every way I can.
“In the next 50 years I hope there is acceptance for everyone. Fuck, this is 2019, are you kidding?! Let's show love. who cares. I don’t understand how someone else's love affects your life in any way. If that person is happy, why does it make you unhappy? It's not your life. Let them be happy. I'm so happy to support the movement, and to do what I can to help.”
Jack Haake, 21, Brooklyn: “This is my first ever Pride. It's a great experience and very supportive and friendly. I'm new to the community, and so while I do not know much about Stonewall I know how important it was in helping things become so accepted now. Those people brought more acceptance to America.
“In 50 years time, I would like everyone to accept each other, whether they are gay, lesbian, or transgender. I hope we can live together without judging one another. I hope we can live peacefully.”
Arlen, 26, The Bronx: “It's important to be down here to represent for friends, family, and myself. And just to have fun. I definitely believe the LGBT community has come a long way in the last 50 years. More people are getting used to seeing LGBT people walk around kissing each other, no matter their gender, expressing themselves in whatever way they feel comfortable to express themselves.
“In the next 50 years, I believe we have to un-gender things, to get in tune with ourselves and not focus on whether we're male or female, but focus on what strength and characteristics we hold ourselves. The social standards of masculinity and femininity should be re-examined. Not eradicated. Re-examined. Let's see what happens when we accept a person for who they are as a human.”
Monica, 21, Kearny, New Jersey: “It's great. I'm with my friends, and it's my birthday weekend too. I'm proud for everybody that Stonewall happened 50 years ago. In the next 50 years, I would hope things get better within the community. We need to do what we can to put our love out there into the world, and spread it.”
Torben, 26, Bay Area: “LGBT rights is very new to me. For me, it's a very personal journey, and haven't yet tapped into the political and cultural aspect of it. I'm doing OK, but I'm struggling in the personal aspect of it. I'm bi or gay, I don't know yet.
“One of my big thoughts about Pride this year is that it's hard not to see how big corporations have tapped into it for their own personal image. At first I was very annoyed by this. Then I thought there hasn't been acceptance by big corporations like this for black or women's struggles and rights; so then I felt pretty humbled and gracious about what they have done for LGBT people. This is a huge leg up. Regardless of intent or personal gain, they seem to be trying to help the LGBTQ movement and acceptance, which I think is really great.
“In the next 50 years, I really believe that we’re going to make great strides. On a cultural level great strides are being made. People are going out there in public, dressing how they feel they want to dress, and identifying how they want to identify. With all this corporate help, I'm sure big progress is destined to happen.”
Romain, 32, Paris, France: “I don't live here, but I know the Stonewall Riots are very important, a big moment in history. In 50 years time, I would like to see more equality and acceptance.”
Edher, 29, Mexico: It's amazing and beautiful, this is my second Pride in New York. I don’t know how to explain my feelings about the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, except to say that if it hadn't happened I doubt I would be here. They made everything possible. For the next 50 years, I would like to see more freedom and more opportunities for all the people.
Jonathan Massey, Marc Norman, Brooklyn
Jonathan: “We just talking about the intense kinds of diversity we saw in this this Pride and at the Queer Liberation March earlier, where the speeches in Central Park focused on that theme. Pride draws a vast array of people who you don't see in Manhattan venues much of the time.”
Marc: “The two marches today were complementary. We need to recognize the battles we still face, and also celebrate the success.”
Jonathan: In the second year of our relationship we came here for the 25th anniversary of Stonewall. We lived in LA at the time, and it was out first trip to New York City together, so today has triggered a lot of reflection. I also turned 50 this year, so I feel my life is tracking with this anniversary in a strange way.”
Marc: “In the next 50 years I want no backsliding. There are some threats to LGBTQ people right now. I wish progress was linear, but it's obviously not.”
Jonathan: “At the Trans Day of Action, the theme was intersectionality between various causes. Trans people have core needs about their healthcare, for example, that are relevant to everybody else. Trans leadership is showing us that queer liberation is not just about LGBT rights, but encompasses many people.”
Ryan, 25, New York City: “Pride is a lot of commercials, like one giant commercial break. As long as there is space for both Prides—the main parade and the Queer Liberation March—I am cool with it. The main Pride drowns out the roots of Pride. I hope both marches can integrate more one day. As long as this corporate bullshit is happening—albeit the best of intentions—there will always be a queer under current leading in the direction where we should be.
“It’s amazing to have come far as we have. We need to continue to fight a lot of injustice. I read that more and more people are identifying as pansexual, not bisexual. Future generations will not stick to binaries. That’s where the future of Pride will be: the everyday experience of ‘love is love.’”
John, “JR” Reddington, "72," East Village, NYC: “I was there the day before the riots, on June 27, 1969. The place was packed. Everybody was dancing, having a good time. There was a major police presence outside. Any time anyone left, there would be an arrest by police. It had been going on for a week and a half. It was a really intense few days. The relationship between police and the community was strained to say the least. I don’t know where the years went. This year I tried to get as close to Stonewall as I could.
“In the next 50 years, I would like an expansion of our civil rights, and more rights for the gay and trans community. Ever since Trump got into office I've been turned off by national politics. I really hope, as a community, we put up a lobby against his re-election. What would I say to the Stonewall demonstrators today? I'd tell them to come on back.”
Donna and BJ, New Jersey
Donna: “It's my first time at Pride, we're having a very good time. To me, Pride means being equal.”
BJ: “The LGBT community has come a long way in 50 years, and who would have thought it would have come so far even 10 years ago. And to get what the community is really striving for may take another 50 years.”
Monica, 22, Brooklyn: “Today is awesome. Stonewall 50 means to me that it's pretty good that everybody today can be out. In the next 50 years, I would hope that nobody has to worry about being judged.”
Yessica Rabbit, 28, New York City: “I have lived here for a year. It's been an experience. This is my first Pride, and I'm excited to do it. For me it's an opportunity to honor the past, and what happened at Stonewall, and give my interpretation and spin on it. It's also an opportunity for me to get away from my conservative Christian upbringing and explore areas of myself that I have not been able to explore. And have a great time on top of all that.
“In the next 50 years I would like us to be able to accept black and trans women of color—to be able to include them into the community. I would also like to see inclusion and equality for all of us.”
Rosalynn, 19, New Jersey (left), and Joshua, 22, New Jersey
Rosalynn: “Today has been very inspiring and motivational. It's the first Pride for both of us. It's exceeding expectations. For me, as a trans person, we face a lot of hardships and it means lot to me to revel in this experience and be alongside my fellow community members.”
Joshua: “It's about equality for me, a chance for people to show themselves without having to hide.”
Rosalynn: “I would like everyone to be able to come out to their parents, and for parents who don’t support their kids to be ostracized and ridiculed for having that opinion.”
Joshua: “I think things will progress positively in the future, especially with how much technology is growing and changing things. It really helps enable you to relate to more people.”
Rosalynn: “Trans people need all the support we can get right now. This administration has made things very scary. We don't know what the next thing is going to be.”