NEW YORK (AP) — Some of the world’s biggest celebrations of LGBTQ+ pride are set to kick off Sunday, with thousands expected to march in New York, San Francisco and other North American cities in parades that will be part party, part protest.
Entertainers and activists, drag performers and transgender advocates are among the grand marshals in parades embracing a unity message this year, as new laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community take effect in several U.S. states.
The parades and marches are among a range of events the roughly 400 Pride organizations across the U.S. are holding this year, with many offering programs focused specifically on the rights of transgender people.
“The platform will be elevated, and we’ll see communities across the country show their unity and solidarity through these events,” said Ron deHarte, co-president for the U.S. Association of Prides.
Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver and Seattle are scheduled to hold their annual pride parades on Sunday. At the parade in Toronto, Canada, more than 100 groups are expected to march. In New York City, seven-time Grammy winner Christina Aguilera will headline a post-march concert in Brooklyn.
New York’s march is held the last Sunday in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City, where a police raid on a gay bar triggered days of protests.
Over the years, the annual observations have spread to other cities and grown to include bisexual, transgender and queer people, as well as other groups.
About a decade ago, when her 13-year-old child first wanted to be called a boy, Roz Gould Keith sought help but could find little to assist her family navigate their child’s transition. They attended a Pride parade in the Detroit area but saw little transgender representation.
This year, she is heartened by the increased visibility of transgender people at marches and celebrations that have been held across the country this month.
“Ten years ago, when my son asked to go to Motor City Pride, there was nothing for the trans community,” said Keith, the founder and executive director of Stand with Trans, a group formed to support and empower young transgender people and their families.
This year, she said, the event was “jam-packed” with representation of transgender people.
One of the grand marshals of New York City’s parade this year is nonbinary activist AC Dumlao, chief of staff for Athlete Ally, a group that advocates on behalf of LGBTQ+ athletes.
“Uplifting the trans community has always been at the core of our events and programming,” said Dan Dimant, a spokesperson for NYC Pride.
Many of this year’s parades served as calls to action for LGBTQ+ communities to unite against dozens, if not hundreds, of legislative bills now under consideration in statehouses across the country.
Lawmakers in 20 states have moved to ban gender-affirming care for children and at least seven more are considering doing the same, adding increased urgency to coalesce around the transgender community, its advocates say.
“We are under threat. Prides are under threat,” Pride event organizers in New York, San Francisco and San Diego said in a statement joined by about 50 other pride organizations nationwide. “The diverse dangers we are facing as an LGBTQ community and Pride organizers, while differing in nature and intensity, share a common trait: they seek to undermine our love, our identity, our freedom, our safety, and our lives.”
Some parades, including the event in Chicago, are planning to beef up security amid the upheaval.
The Anti-Defamation League and GLAAD, a national LGBTQ+ organization, found 101 anti-LGBTQ+ incidents just in the first three weeks of this month, about twice as many as in the full month of June last year.
Sarah Moore, who analyzes extremism for the two civil rights groups, said many of the June incidents coincide with Pride events.
AP writers Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.