What an amazing weekend in NYC! For one thing, we celebrated the annual Gay Pride Parade, and- oh yeah, in case you haven’t heard- New York State is the latest to legalize Gay Marriage! (So funny that the last time I logged on to The Juggler, last Thursday, I was lamenting the fact that Native Americans appear to have accommodated themselves to Same-Sex Marriage, which at the time seemed such a sharp contrast to us. Fantastic how the world can change in a weekend.) Gay Pride, always a charged, intense, ecstatic affair, took place this year in an even more jubilant atmosphere than usual, generated almost immediately after the news of the State Senate’s decision was released Friday night. (The overwhelming refrain over the weekend was that virtually every Gay person in New York City is now SO ready to be married to someone- cause, you know, we CAN!!)
The one unhappy note, however, was struck on Friday night when a celebratory crowd gathered in front of Stonewall (site of Gay Liberation) in the West Village- to find themselves in a confrontation with the police. Here is where the Radical Faeries (which included a few Wiccans and Pagan Witches among them) enter the picture: (1) the Radical Faeries are not a Neo-Pagan group, per se; (2) the Radical Faeries were founded by Gay Rights Pioneer Harry Hay, to inspire Queer Male Spirituality in the same way that he inspired Queer Male Political Identity. As you can see from the clips following, this purpose quickly expanded to embrace gender-bending non-conformity as well. That said, the NYC Rad Faes have incorporated into their habits and practices such Wiccan concepts as forming a Sacred Circle and executing a Spiral Dance (I believe I am correct in saying that this happened in the early 1990s, when a number of NYC Faeries “went Wiccan” all of a sudden, very much influenced by Starhawk and The Spiral Dance). NYC Faeries often will therefore spontaneously join hands, calling out merrily to one and all: make a Circle! Make a Circle! And so they form a Circle- which like its Wiccan counterpart, is understood to be a Sacred, Magickal Place at its center.
What happened on Friday night, June 24, 2011- as is their Pride Weekend custom, the Faeries gathered in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, to march across Manhattan to Stonewall, in a display called The Drag March (the purpose of which clearly is to turn out in one’s best drag or party-boy attire). I have made the March with the Faeries before; it is a long established event; and the police have always been very friendly and accommodating to us in the March, in fact escorting us across town and stopping the traffic as we cross streets.
Friday night, however, by the time the Radical Faeries arrived at Stonewall in their Drag March, crowds were gathering and the media assembling in anticipation of the Senate’s decision. The Faeries (in celebration of having achieved their destination, and in joy of the occasion) formed a Circle in front of Stonewall, to create a Sacred Space. According to my Wiccan High Priest friend Gary Suto (HP in the Wica Tradition, and Second Degree in the Minoan Brotherhood, both created by early NYC Scenester Eddie Buczynski) and my Pagan Witch friend Delphi- the Faeries were starting the well-known Pagan chant “We are a Circle, within a Circle, with no Beginning, and never Ending,” as they joined hands, rotating slowly in a Sacred Circle. The mood was happy; positive; enthusiastic.
Until the police decided that they wanted the crowd to break up, in order to keep the street clear. (Frankly, they should have just made the decision right then to close off the street in front of Stonewall- a small sidestreet around which traffic can easily be diverted.) I guess the police wished to make a show of their authority; at any rate, the police pushed themselves into the (Sacred) center of the Circle- they ordered the crowd to disperse. So (this is so Radical Faerie)- the Faeries broke into a Spiral Dance, running in long, drag-attired lines as they weaved themselves in and out and around the policemen.
The police did not seem to appreciate the madcap foolishness of this; a small police-cart (akin to a golf-cart) came traveling slowly down the street (this is all in front of Stonewall, mind, where the original Gay Rights Riot broke out). Following the “cop-cart” were a few police-cars; it was my friend Delphi’s impression that the police were very seriously intent at this point of reclaiming control. A Drag Queen, in a display of the Flamboyant Outrageousness associated with Drag, shimmied herself against the “cop-cart,” mocking and taunting police authority.
A policeman went forward to seize the Drag Queen (reaching for his handcuffs). He grabbed her with one hand, but- in a show of Street Queen wiles- the Drag Queen slipped herself out of his grasp, and darted off into the crowd. (Here occurs one of my favorite parts:) The crowd parted, to let the Drag Queen slip through; then the crowd closed ranks again, between the Drag Queen and the policeman. “Uh, no- you will NOT arrest this Drag Queen.”
At this point (according to my friends Gary and Delphi)- a group of Baby Dykes took up the chant: “WHOSE streets? OUR streets! WHOSE streets? OUR streets!” (“Baby Dyke” is current LGBTQ lingo for a Female Homosexual in her early 20s; the term implies a certain fired-up, feisty quality; “AG,” for “Aggressive Girl,” is another word that describes these young Lesbians; my friend Delphi, relating all this to me, paused and decided- “No, these weren’t just Baby Dykes; these gals graduated to ‘Young Lesbian Warriors’.” June 24, 2011- the night a bunch of Baby Dykes and AGs earned their Act-Up stripes and became full-fledged Young Lesbian Warriors. Rock on, ladies-)
Let us recap the situation: here are a bunch of Two-Spirits- Radical Faeries, cross-dressed in the ceremonial display of gender-bending associated with Two-Spirits the world over; some of these Radical Faeries (like my friends Gary and Delphi) are either Wiccan and/or Pagan Witches; NYC Radical Faerie Culture has incorporated (at least in part through the influence of Starhawk) making a Sacred and/or Magickal Circle as part of their habitual custom. In the course of doing so (in front of Stonewall, a sacred site to American Queer folk, on a historic occasion for Queer Equality): the police attempt to break up the crowd. A Drag Queen acts up in defiance of police-authority; is threatened with arrest; and escapes into the crowd; which falls to behind her, preventing the police from going after her. In the meantime, some Young Lesbian Warriors have taken up the rallying cry: WHOSE streets? OUR streets! WHOSE streets? OUR streets!
It fascinates me how much like a mini-Stonewall this was (and how close this came to being Another Stonewall): one of the things that infuriated the original Stonewall crowd to a greater degree of intensified rage was watching an especially Butch Dyke resist arrest; the Lord (Lady) of Absurdist Misrule quality that is always present in a Drag Queen further provoked the situation.
All of a sudden, everybody is considering the possibility of another Stonewall, as the situation suddenly appears very alarming and tense. (Delphi remarked on how astounded he was to see this peaceable, happy occasion turn so quickly menacing and ugly; he also remembers- Boom!- suddenly all these Radical Faeries found themselves in the midst of the Media-Beast, as cameras and cellphones and national media were trained upon them.) Enter my Radical Faerie friend Tiff. (In the videos below, you will see Tiff dressed in a rainbow wedding-gown, briefly leading a chant-round of “I do! I do! I do!” This is what happens when Radical Faeries enter the picture- you say things like, he’s dressed in the rainbow wedding-gown.) Tiff is a lawyer (in addition to being a Radical Faerie), and has acted as liaison with the NYPD before. So off goes Tiff to confab with the cops (some of whom he knows); Gary and Delphi went to stand back-up behind him, and so were witnesses to what happened next.
Which basically was- Tiff pointed out the obvious emotion of the (increasingly growing) crowd; the historic quality of the night; and the presence of national media. Higher-ups in the NYPD chain hastily consulted- the decision was quickly passed down to close off the street in front of Stonewall for the night.
In the videos of the scene generated after and sent on to YouTube, you can see both Delphi and Tiff; you will also see Gary Suto discussing the situation with the media: “Stonewall Celebrates Gay Marriage” is the shorter, featuring many shots of the Faeries (as one can see from the drumming and fire-spinning, an almost Pagan-like air of festivity settled over the evening); “Celebration at Stonewall as Marriage Equality Bill Passes- June 24, 2011″ is much longer (twenty minutes), with much depiction of the happiness of the merriment of the night. Delphi and Tiff were both interviewed by Radio Hive.org immediately after the stand-off (according to Delphi, you can hear the Young Lesbian Warriors chanting behind them); that interview was broadcast last night, along with those conducted with other Faeries. While I was walking around Pride on Sunday with Gary and our friend Mojo, people were coming up to Gary (recognizing him from YouTube), to thank him for taking a Gay Rights stand.
A Queer Life NYC story- with Radical Faeries, and Pagan Witches, and Wiccan HPs. BUT GAYS IN NEW YORK STATE CAN MARRY!! Rock on-