Gays Against Guns Brought ’80s-Style Activism to New York Pride

Members of Gays Against Guns in the 46th annual New York gay pride march, June 26, 2016.

Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images

Pride is a party, a pick-up scene, a consciousness-raising event, and a political rally. At New York City’s gay pride parade on Sunday, politics were particularly prominent. As the New York Times noted, among the groups marching down Fifth Avenue, were “a shuffling contingent of figures dressed in all white, veiled in gauzy fabric and wearing placards with names and faces. They represented the 49 people gunned down this month at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.” This is as close as we’ve come in years to the kind of “political funeral” that activist groups like ACT-UP often staged during the height of the AIDS epidemic.

The Times also dedicated a paragraph to another group whose style and tone owes much to the AIDS era:

The march also included a group that called itself Gays Against Guns, whose members lay on the pavement at various points along the route for a so-called die-in. The group urged stricter gun control laws and condemned the National Rifle Association, which, according to one poster, the group said should “sashay away,” borrowing a catchphrase from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

As many as 750 supporters of Gays Against Guns were said to have marched, and by staging regular die-ins along the parade route, they consciously made a connection with ’80s AIDS activism. They even chanted slogans like “How many more have to die?” that were heard in the smaller parades that snaked through the city 30 years ago.

We sometimes act as though the National Rifle Association is so powerful that it’s untouchable. Back in the 1980s, people believed the same of the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACT-UP proved them wrong.