Revelers in glittering, rainbow-hued garb danced and sang in NYC streets on Sunday during the annual Pride March. This year’s theme was “Defiantly Different.”
One man there who was decidedly defiant was Robert DeVito, the Palisades Park police officer who said he was fired for being gay. He was passing out flyers at the march. He has resumed a civil job as communications manager and has set his sights on getting as many supporters as possible to attend Tuesday’s Borough Council meeting.
Defiance, an ongoing theme in the annual marches, can also be seen in how language changes with time. Just as African-Americans now like to use the N word, so the LGBT community (particularly men) are now more comfortable saying the F word. It may be hard to read in the preview photo above but the sign on the SUV says “FAGGOTS New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey.” And there were many faggots, their friends, family, colleagues and neighbors plus many other onlookers having a festive time.
As with the N word directed at African-Americans, the word faggot harkens back to the much darker days when it was a only a nasty slur. It’s a more nuanced issue now which playwright Victor Rodger used in his plays. “It’s a word that has been lobbed at me as a term of endearment, but it’s certainly been lobbed at me as an insult,” says Rodger. To him, the context of the label is key: What is the intention of the speaker?
Today many gays are reclaiming the word. Ray Huezo, a 29-year-old gay man, uses the word to greet his roommate, who is also gay. When he does CrossFit, he and his roommate keep each other going by repeating “OK, girl, fag out, fag out,” instead of “Don’t quit on me now,” or the also-controversial “man up.” Others revive the word out of sheer defiance: “I embrace the worst thing you can say about me, and I throw it back in your face, asshole!”
The times are changing, and so is how we embrace words that once offended us. Call us what you like, but whether we come from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania or elsewhere we sure can liven up a march and do so with pride, fun and defiance.
Pride marches are not yet over. Gayborhood Jersey City & the Hudson Pride Center will host the 18th Annual Jersey City LGBT Pride Festival on Saturday, August 25th, 2018 1-9PM.
The preview picture by your scribbler and the two others by Emma Howells/The New York Times.