NORTHALSTED — Chicago’s Pride Parade returned to Northalsted for the first time in three years, but the Supreme Court’s move rolling back abortion rights had some wondering if LGBTQ rights could come under attack next.
The parade kicked off at Montrose Avenue and Broadway Sunday afternoon after the pandemic cancelled the event in 2020 and 2021. Local officials like Gov. JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined the procession.
This year’s celebration also honored its longtime lead organizer, Richard Pfeiffer, who spearheaded Chicago Pride from its fifth year. He died in 2019.
Along with the festive, rainbow, glittery and skimpy outfits that have become the trademark of Pride, marchers and fans donned abortion rights t-shirts and handmade signs protesting the Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas questioned if the court should reconsider other due process precedents, including the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that affirmed Constitutional protections for gay marriage and the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision protecting same-sex sexual intimacy. Thomas’ opinion sent shockwaves through the queer community, endangering a right to marriage they received seven years ago Sunday.
“We support everyone’s bodily autonomy and right to their own body,” said Kevin McMullin, a member of the Chicago Dragons Rugby Football Club, which includes gay male and trans teammates. “Not for nothing but even if everyone at this event doesn’t support that, we’re next on the block. So get on the f—ing boat and row.”
Several attendees said the protests around abortion rights align with the origins of Pride: the 1969 Stonewall Riots, in which LGBTQ people fought back against the police for raiding their gay bars. The uprising lasted several days and marked a turning point in the fight for LGBTQ rights.
Like other parades across the country, Chicago Pride grew from a modest celebration that flew in the face of homophobia to a city-sanctioned event feted by corporate sponsors.
In 2022, Chicago Pride juxtaposed that explosion of corporate support against the backdrop of a post-Roe v. Wade world. Queer people worried their rights could be taken away again and teenagers wondered if they’d be able to get married. Meanwhile, someone twerked in jorts to “Lean Back” on the L.A. Tan float. Women raged over the court’s decision to gut Roe v. Wade. The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile rolled by as Lady Gaga’s “Rain on Me” blared.
As the truck for Chicago Women in Trades waited for the parade to begin, a ragtag band of women in hard hats banged drums and cymbals in protest and celebration. The group had started decorating their truck on Friday when the Supreme Court decision came down.
The news was a blow to Rachel Macias and her wife, Jade Pietri, who immigrated to the U.S. from France. The two are now discussing whether Pietri should pursue U.S. citizenship in case the conservative court overturns Obergefell.
“They’re probably coming for gay marriage, which is a big one for us, that’s how I got my green card,” Pietri said. “So if they overturn that, they could easily say that it is null and that I cannot be here, which is the absolute worst case scenario because I have a family here.”
Macias, who affixed a handmade poster demanding “Hands Off My Plumbing” to a piece of copper pipe, said the parade buoyed her spirits and gave her a sense of camaraderie despite the couple’s concerns about their future.
“I feel better today surrounded by these people in our community,” Macias said smiling. “We’re feeling great today, I feel like this is the start of the movement, we would definitely like to be part of the revolution.”
On a nearby float for the leather bar Touché’s Leather and Kink Contingent, Gary Lee —bearing a sash declaring him “Mr. Buckwood Cub 2021″ — and his husband Mike Rynkiewicz used the Pride Parade as an opportunity to reunite with friends and celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
The couple expressed solidarity with those affected by the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, hoping their actions would avoid a future decision reversing gay marriage protections.
“It’s a mixed bag of frustration. We want to jump on board with the current fight and make sure it doesn’t get to that point,” Rynkiewicz said. “Nice to know that there are plenty of people who want to f— with our good time though. They’ve been pretty clear about what their intentions are, so we have a right to be concerned.”
Angel Campos and Emma Thran watched the parade on Broadway. Campos delighted in seeing their culture and queer pride represented with a mariachi band. Thran particularly enjoyed the “Dykes on Bikes” float and got lightheaded for a moment after screaming for Planned Parenthood.
“I feel like having this back just means so much,” Campos said. “It’s a little more uplifting than what the world generally feels like sometimes. It’s good to remember there’s good in the world.”
Campos, who is trans and nonbinary, wore a vest with a QR code on the back printed with a request to donate to their top surgery. Though they normally wear baggy clothing or binders to disguise their body, they felt more comfortable foregoing that wardrobe among their community at Pride.
“If anybody decides they’re able to donate, that would be nice,” Campos said. “But if not, they just see another cool queer person that might be pursuing the same thing they are, and there’s solidarity in that.”
For Thran, there was a clear reason for the solidarity on display Saturday between the queer community and those who demanding abortion rights.
“I think what’s central to this celebration is people should be allowed to choose what they get to do with their bodies,” Thran said. “That includes their partners and what they want to do medically and I think abortion rights definitely fall into that.”
See more pictures from the parade below:
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