Each June, the streets of New York are transformed into a blitz of rainbow flags, bared skin, and joyous dancing. Never does New York City's annual Pride March fall shy of spectacular; crowds often pack in more than 2 million people to see the action and celebrate the spirit of Pride, one of radical inclusion.
Anyone is welcome to come as they are -- or, for some, as they love to be. The doyens of this day are the drag queens, for whom Pride can be the busiest (and most wonderful) time of the year. Case in point: One booker told me that the most sought-after performers might work five shows on a Pride weekend, crisscrossing the country for various events.
The influx of drag queens to stages and venues throughout the country during Pride month also has a gateway effect for aspiring drag queens wanting to celebrate and "get in heels and lip sync to Britney," as Queens-based drag queen Sutton Kyler Puckett recalled. The New York City-based queen, who performs with the name Heidi Haux, was forever changed by moving to New York at 18 years old, on Pride Weekend, no less. "I was still closeted," he said. "The overwhelming support and sheer quantity of pro-gay anything blew my mind."
It's no surprise that NYC Pride is generally regarded as America's most vibrant Pride event; this is, after all, the birthplace of Pride as we know it. Following the riots outside The Stonewall Inn in June 1969, the first official New York City pride march, then called Christopher Street Liberation Day, became an anniversary of marginalized people standing up against unjust police riots at gay bars. Given its history, this is the landmark event the LGBTQ+ community and allies flock to annually. "There's nowhere like New York, the gay rights movement started here," said New York City drag queen Candy Sterling. "It's so symbolic of our fight for acceptance and progress."
But that fight and the ongoing struggle for acceptance continues across the 50 states, especially in places without gay bars, LGBTQ resource centers, and a few less proudly waving rainbow flags than the West Village. Which is why it’s more important than ever to call attention to the small towns and cities throwing their first-ever Pride parade this year, and recognize the communities outside of New York that throw America’s best Pride celebrations.
So we talked to well-traveled drag queens to find out which are the prides of Pride, nationwide.