Political leaders, LGBTQ activists, and special guest Chasten Buttigieg helped kick Pride season into gear at the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City’s annual event on May 23 at the M1-5 Lounge in Tribeca.
Gay City News was among the honorees, along with Andy Marra, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund; Carmen Neely, the president of Harlem Pride and a co-chair of NYC Pride and Power; Tamara Rivera, council representative of the New York City District Council of Carpenters; and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who was unable to attend due to inclement weather in Buffalo that prevented her travel.
Current and former out gay elected officials were also on hand, including Manhattan Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman, Queens City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, and former Bronx Councilmember Jimmy Vacca. Numerous other elected officials representing virtually every level of government — including Congressmember Nydia Velázquez, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, and Queens Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman — were also in attendance.
In honoring Gay City News, Stonewall president Rod Townsend praised the newspaper for keeping queer New Yorkers in the loop on the most important news for the past several decades. Gay City News founding editor-in-chief Paul Schindler accepted the award on behalf of the publication and briefly acknowledged those who have helped ensure that the critical stories of the LGBTQ community are told, even amid the sometimes-contentious relationship between members of the press and those who wield power.
“What I have learned over the years from all the years at Stonewall is that you have accepted the fact that there are political activists and there are those of us who report on the political world,” Schindler explained. “I’ve always had good interactions, honest discourse, and appreciation for the fact that you may not like every story, but you have respect for what we do and you open yourselves and your work up to us. I’m appreciative and I think in a democracy that’s very important.”
Rivera spoke of the importance of gender and racial and ethnic equality while reflecting on her own professional journey, noting that she entered the workforce standing alone as the only LGBTQ Hispanic woman among her fellow carpenters. She voiced a sense of optimism for the future, saying, “Our family here is growing bigger and stronger. Together we’re unstoppable.”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s husband Chasten, who introduced himself as a middle school teacher from South Bend, Indiana, took the time to tell his deeply personal and tumultuous coming out story. Growing up in northern Michigan, his family was not receptive to his sexuality and he wound up homeless for a period of time and even considered committing suicide. His loved ones came around to accept him — his parents walked him down the aisle when he married the mayor last year — and he said he stresses that point as he travels the country campaigning alongside his husband.
“Not a single day goes by on the trail by that I’m not cornered by somebody who tells me their story,” Buttigieg said. “’I just came out to my dad, it didn’t go very well. What do I do?’… I was at LaGuardia a couple weeks ago waiting for a flight. An older gentleman said, “You’re Chasten Buttigieg, right?’ Yes. ‘So what do I do?’”
Buttigieg told the crowd to celebrate Pride, but then make sure to march for those who don’t have a voice, for those who continue to be victims of discrimination and who face rejection from their families and friends simply for being themselves.
“We’re just getting started,” he said. “I look forward to marching with you this summer.”