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Pride parade celebrates Queens gay communities

Queens elected officials and members of the borough’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community braved a steady rain Sunday to march in the 11th annual Queens Pride Parade in Jackson Heights.

“This is one of the best parades in Queens,” said U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans). “We’re celebrating, and we want people to understand that the gay and lesbian community stands for human rights. Government needs to do more to make sure they receive the same treatment.”

The area of 37th Avenue between 89th and 75th streets was thronged with colorfully and often scantily clad marchers. Three pairs of women dressed all in white danced (in a not entirely G-rated style) atop a flatbed truck as Salsa music blared from 3-foot speakers.

Others carried American flags with the red and white of the 13 stripes replaced by the seven colors of the rainbow. There was a full wedding party in formal wear featuring two brides — each with veil and gown — and a woman minister.

The parade was organized in 1993 by Daniel Dromm, then a teacher at PS 199 in Sunnyside and now a Democratic district leader. The event was a response to an anti-gay bias killing and School Board 24’s attack on the rainbow curriculum — a proposed (and ultimately defeated) set of school guidelines that included sections on tolerance of homosexuals.

Dromm’s election to the district leader post in 2002 made him the first openly gay public official in Queens.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.

Other elected representatives in attendance included U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Height), as well as state Senators John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights) and Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and state Assemblymen Ivan Lafayette (D-Jackson Heights), Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) and Jose Peralta (D-Corona). City officials included Council members Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona), Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) and David Weprin (D-Hollis), City Comptroller William Thompson and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who became the first borough president to march in the parade last year.

The public officials — most dressed in suits or business attire — presented a stark contrast from the outlandish costumes displayed by other marchers.

One man, who gave his name as Roberto del Peru, wore his hair in thick Medusa-like strands splaying out in all directions and sported a dress of reflective gold with beaded sleeves and purple decorations. He said he had been cross-dressing for more than 20 years and had appeared in the Queens parade since its inception.

Another, calling himself Noche, wore a feather headdress and a skimpy leopard-skin dress that left his chest — and then some — exposed.

“I like feathers,” he said. “I’m really into it.”

Organizations participating included the Gay Officers Action League of New York, the Long Island Secular Humanists, the AIDS Center of Queens County, Colombia Lesbian and Gay Association, American Veterans for Equal Rights and Sts. Sergius and Bacchus Catholic Church — a house of worship led by two openly gay priests.

Dromm could not estimate parade turnout but said it was certainly less than organizers hoped for due to poor weather. He said last year’s event attracted about 40,000 marchers and observers.

Observers thronged the sidewalks and many watched from open windows along the parade route.

“It think it’s very fine,” said Marta Gonzalez, a resident of the neighborhood. “They are special people.”

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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