Spectators cheer along Fifth Avenue during the annual NYC Pride...

Spectators cheer along Fifth Avenue during the annual NYC Pride March on Sunday. Credit: Linda Rosier

A rainbow sea of thousands lined Manhattan streets for the annual NYC Pride March on Sunday, with attendees showing their festive support of the LGBTQ community while standing in solidarity with those targeted by laws being passed across the country.

Pride provides a safe space to explore and showcase their identities, LGBTQ attendees said, which they don’t take for granted as states across the nation target drag performances, gender-affirming health care, diversity education and more.

Many organizations and nonprofits marched in the parade, to the backdrop of jubilant cheers, upbeat music, dazzling glitter and confetti. The annual Pride march commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots that launched the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

Groups from Stony Brook University, Hofstra University and Northwell Health represented Long Island on Sunday, along with everyday Long Islanders. There were five grand marshals, including singer and actor Billy Porter; asexual activist Yasmin Benoit; nonprofit leader AC Dumlao; national organizer Hope Giselle and civil rights trailblazer Randolfe “Randy” Wicker. Wicker has been a leader in LGBTQ activism for over sixty years.

Sasha Koulakova, 19, of Huntington, attended Sunday’s Pride with friends. Koulakova, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, said attending Pride with other attendees who were LGBTQ, as well as allies, made them feel safe and part of a community.

“I know so many people who have struggled with finding themselves and finding their place in the world,” they said, adding that Pride gives people a safe space to do so.

The worry of being singled out or being the victim of a hate crime weighs heavily on Koulakova, who likened Sunday to “testing the waters to feel more safe. I’m getting a little more exposure therapy in the real world.”

The streets are filled with confetti at the start of...

The streets are filled with confetti at the start of the march on Fifth Avenue. Credit: Linda Rosier

Maxine Moylan, 30, is a coordinator of multicultural affairs at Stony Brook University and works with the LGBTQ services team, where she helps connect LGBTQ students with resources both on and off campus. Having the center is important to affirm students' identities, she said.

Moylan, who is transgender, said Sunday’s Pride was an extension of her work at Stony Brook, and important to participate in given today’s political climate.

“Especially with everything going on right now politically, it’s important to just let people know we’re here and we’re not going to let ourselves become invisible,” she said. “It’s really important for LGBTQ people and allies to just show their support.”

The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group, reports that a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures this year. Examples include Florida passing legislation banning classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity. Louisiana joined a slate of states banning gender-affirming health care for transgender youths.

The march offered a burst of joy and celebration for...

The march offered a burst of joy and celebration for a community that has been targeted by laws in many states. Credit: Linda Rosier

Before Sunday’s march, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a new law declaring New York a “safe haven” by taking steps including preventing the state's courts and law-enforcement apparatus from participating in upholding others states' restrictions on gender-affirming care.

Devin Lobosco, 20, of Bayside, Queens, is student government president at Stony Brook University, where he has organized Pride events on campus along with vice president Isaiah Daniel.

Lobosco, who is queer, said attending Pride was “the icing on the cake.” He marched with other SUNY schools, which he said offered a way to connect and build relationships.

Daniel, 20, of Brooklyn, said Pride is a time to focus on learning about experiences other than one’s own.

“It’s also just a time for people to learn and understand people’s lives outside their own experiences,” Daniel said. “I feel like a lot of people are stuck inside their own bubbles of understanding and not willing to learn more.”

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