A dedicated bunch braved the elements in southern Brooklyn on May 30 and marched along the Riegelmann Boardwalk to commemorate the fifth annual edition of Brighton Beach Pride.
The march, which was held virtually last year due to the pandemic, returned to its usual format: It kicked off in Coney Island and proceeded east on the mostly-deserted boardwalk on a wet and rainy Sunday afternoon. RUSA LGBT, a Russian LGBTQ organization based in the area, led the march and concluded the event with a brief rally on the boardwalk.
Some marchers held Rainbow Flags, Trans Flags, and Russian Flags, while others held signs in Russian and English with messages such as “You Can’t Legislate Trans People Away,” My Identity Is Real,” and “Address Asylum Backlog.”
Drummers provided the street beat under the intermittent rainfall as marchers broke out in chants like “Trans lives matter,” “Black lives matter,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia has got to go.” They also denounced Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
In previous years, the march drew some curious looks from some of the spectators who encountered the march — though there have also been supporters clapping along. This time around, with the boardwalk largely emptied out, some of the few onlookers recorded video on their phones and others stopped to watch. As usual, people at different points of the march applauded in solidarity.
“Brighton Beach is changing very slowly, but they know we are here,” lead organizer Lyosha Gorshkov told Gay City News.
After five years of Brighton Beach Pride, Gorshkov believes locals are starting to realize that there is indeed a queer presence in the neighborhood.
“They know we exist,” he said. “All of a sudden, homophobia has been exposed in Brighton Beach — and that’s the major achievement.”
Others who participated in the march conveyed the significance of Brighton Beach Pride — especially given that it focuses on the experience of queer immigrants, including those who have been driven from their home countries because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I know how hard it is for LGBTQI people in Russia,” said one attendee named Poulina, who lives in Queens. “I was so glad to find out that there are Russians who live here in New York. I feel like the weather wouldn’t stop anyone anyway.”
A marcher by the name of Anna, who hails from Russia but has lived in the United States for eight years, was wrapped in a Rainbow Flag.
“I’m really happy to be here with RUSA LGBT,” Anna said. “Despite the weather, to see how many people are here — it shows it is very important for our community to fight for our rights, especially in Brighton Beach.”
The concluding rally featured multiple speakers who delivered remarks in both English and Russian. Yelena Goltsman, another lead organizer of the annual festivities, stood up on a boardwalk bench and explained that RUSA LGBT has helped raise money for people in need. That kind of assistance, Goltsman said, is critical for immigrants who arrive to the United States without the resources they need.
“We, as a group, came together and within days distributed $17,000 to 200 people,” Goltsman said. “We are a grassroots organization… It was an amazing outpouring of support, and I want to say that’s how people survive.”
Following the demonstration, folks turned on some music and mingled on the boardwalk across from Tatiana’s Restaurant. It was not a large crowd and the weather was not ideal, but those who did attend demonstrated that there is an appetite for an annual Pride event in the neighborhood.
“It’s a great turnout and it doesn’t even matter how many,” Gorshkov said. “It’s not the quantity. It’s the quality.”
This story first appeared on GayCityNews.com.