In 2017 I spent the summer in New York as part of the RealAD. During this time, I got the chance to witness my first pride parade. We stood for around 6 hours, pacing fifth avenue to try to get better glimpses of the extravagant floats and the celebrities on them. Stakeholders of all forms had floats; politicians, TV shows, make-up companies: you name it, they probably had a float.
Back then I didn’t really understand the full scope of the “hype” around pride. I had assumed, as a girl from the Philippines, liberation and freedom was just a given in the U.S.. I mean, land of the free, right? But living in New York that summer gave me a greater depth of understanding as to why New Yorkers felt so much emotion towards pride month, towards celebrating their truth and identity. Not everyone was always “free”, after all.
I came back to New York during my junior spring study away. In 2019, New York celebrates Stonewall 50 – the 50th anniversary since the Stonewall Uprisings in the West Village. I felt the gravity of this celebration; Gay St. decked with an all-inclusive set of street signs: “Lesbian St, Bi St, Queer St.” and more succeeded the famous “Gay St.” sign. The months leading up to pride showed me how important it was for the Queer community to fight for their rights; to see how far they’ve come since 1969, and how much further they have to go for all identities to feel safe and free.
Reading Angels of America gives an insight into this even more, too. Roy Cohn’s homosexual self-hatred sheds a lot of light into the lack of acceptance in a societal and personal scale. How do you accept yourself when the people around you don’t? Roy Cohn is reflective of the force that the Stonewall Uprisings continually fought against, and the self-liberation that Stonewall seeks to encourage amongst all LGBTQ individuals.
I think Angels of America being set in New York is profound and can generate a lot of discussion about the relationship of space with identity and political landscapes. My time there shed a lot of light on the zeitgeist of desire for freedom, acceptance, and equality.