Family Pride

| 17 Feb 2015 | 05:08

For the second time ever, Pride Week is hosting a Family Night, and increasingly catering to young children

By Catherine Ellsberg & Manny Valdez

West Village Pride hits the streets of New York this week, and the regular schedule of rallying, marching, dancing, celebrating and parading will be updated to include the littlest LGBTQ allies. For the second time ever, Pride Week will host a Family Movie Night, with a screening of The Wizard of Oz at the Hudson River Park Pier and an evening catering to LGBTQ families. The rally and march are also advertised as "family-friendly" events, a designation indicative of how advocates and allies have become increasingly focused on the family and kid-centric aspects of gay rights.

Family Night-a relatively new addition to the Pride lineup-has already made an indelible mark in the LGBTQ enclave. The outer boroughs have also staked a claim; Harlem Pride encourages people of all ages to attend, and Brooklyn Pride has its own designated Kids Space, replete with bouncy houses and clown painting.

Heritage of Pride (which organizes and runs Pride Week) managing director Chris Frederick said the idea of Movie Night was originally created because he felt a family event was needed to help round out Pride Week. "I thought it was an event that was lacking during Pride Week in the sense that there wasn't really a family event currently happening," said Frederick. "There wasn't anyone catering on a larger scale to LGBT families. So in conjunction with Target we produced this event and it was a big success." In 2012, Pride held its first family night with a screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; the event was popular, but the organizers couldn't find funding to bring it back in 2013. Demand was palpable enough this year, however, that they decided to make it happen in 2014.

For some who associate Pride Week with writhing semi-naked bodies dancing through the streets of the Village, the idea of a "family-friendly" atmosphere could seem incongruous; after all, the march can be a rowdy and even bawdy affair.

Tish Flynn, the Media Director of NYC Pride, said that they haven't heard from any naysayers about the family programming, and that the lineup of events has attracted both neighborhood regulars and LGBTQ families alike; Pride champions a spirit of inclusivity.

"We've had really old people, really young people," Flynn said, noting that last year there were more very young children than ever before. This year Demi Lovato is a host, which is also sure to attract a younger crowd-a kind of icing to The Wizard of Oz cake.

When asked if Pride has received any pushback for inviting children along, Flynn seemed incredulous: "Not at all. This is New York City?. There's not even a question of acceptance." Noting that Pride takes place right along Christopher Street, Flynn implied that if people had a problem with any of it, they were simply in the wrong neighborhood. "We're doing it for the community. We really push for that."

Flynn paints a portrait of Pride camaraderie, with many West Village bystanders joining in on the activities, or simply watching the march from behind the lines. Mostly, though, Pride Week-and namely the march--has become a beloved tradition for many LGBTQ families, who proudly bring their children to participate.

Sydney King marched last year with her wife and then six-month-old daughter who, upon waking from her nap, received "lots of love from the crowd." King felt that her family "symbolized the whole queer family thing."

For King, and for many other LGBTQ people and their families, Pride is not just a week of fun excursion, but a microcosmic period steeped in history and intense meaning.

Gabriel Blau, the executive director of Family Equality, has marched in the past with his husband and little boy, and plans on doing so again. Blau firmly maintains that although many people think that Pride's family-friendly spirit is just a matter of "accommodation," it represents so much more. Blau believes that Pride's partnership with Johnson & Johnson this year in setting up a changing table for children is a real "statement;" more than just a matter of logistics, the tables are hugely symbolic, showing the support of a major American corporation that many associate with wholesome, family-oriented values and products.

As Blau points out, many children who come from LGBTQ families are discriminated against; for parents to be able to march proudly with their kids-to have "others see them with their children"-has been an "unparalleled experience" for Blau and countless others.

With more and more LGBTQ families raising children, Pride's shift to include spaces for kids is not just pragmatic; it makes the statement, as Blau said, that "all families can be part of this community, this story."