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First-ever LGBT+ marching band performs at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade after almost a century

Lily Wakefield
·2-min read

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been running for 96 years, but 2020 saw the first-ever performance for an all LGBT+ marching band.

The Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps (LGBAC) was formed in 1979, a decade after the Stonewall uprising, and has been applying to take part in the New York parade for years.

However this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade organisers made the decision to limit the number of participants and only select local bands from New York and the tri-state area to perform.

The restrictions meant that the LGBAC finally got their chance to perform in the parade, watched by more than 20 million people across the country, with one band member describing the opportunity as “bucket list material”.

The all-queer band performed “Dancing Queen” by ABBA.

The marching band’s artistic director Marita Begley told NBC New York: “There are families out there in middle America, throughout the country, that are going to see this and it’s going to give hope to young people who are questioning their sexuality, their gender.”

Founding band member Joe Avena added: “People will see that we’re part of them, and part of their lives, and part of what they love.”

Members of the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps march the Annual Mermaid Parade Held In Coney Island on June 22, 2019 in New York City. (Kena Betancur/Getty)
Members of the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps march the Annual Mermaid Parade Held In Coney Island on June 22, 2019 in New York City. (Kena Betancur/Getty)

Begley, who joined the LGBT+ marching band in the 1980s, described the LGBAC’s brand of “quiet activism” in an interview with The Atlantic.

She said: “We were quiet activists. No one would invite ACT UP to their parade. But small towns were inviting the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps to march in their Fourth of July parade.”

Begley described attending local parades, and how it would slowly dawn on those watching that the marching band had all LGBT+ members. Some, she said, would give a thumbs down, but others just kept clapping.

She said: “It was almost subversive to use the most mom-and-apple-pie, all-American of mediums, the marching band, to open minds. It really is.”