A Fun and Sober Pride With NYC Queer & Sober
For many people, Pride celebrations go hand in hand with drugs (both prescription and recreational), every kind of booze imaginable and hard partying. In the face of that, the organization NYC Queer & Sober was formed.
"I found myself on Pride weekend with eight years of sobriety and nothing really wonderful to go to as far as sober options were concerned," said NYC Queer & Sober Creative Director, Christian Parker. "Queer & Sober started when a small group of friends had had enough of the same thing. We went to the only sober dance in town on Gay Pride Sunday and said to ourselves, ’No one’s here, no one’s dancing, no one is having fun. Where are all of our friends?’"
The organization’s encouragement is for unity in fellowship, with the simple mission to provide a safe and fun experience to the sober LGBT community during Gay Pride weekend and other events during the year.
"We put our wallets together, slapped a theme on the party, flew in a DJ from Miami, booked some go-go boys and used Facebook to invite every sober queen we had ever met," said Parker. "Everyone came, the place was packed, the place was sexy and for the first time in a very long time, sober people came out of the rooms and partied just like the rest of the world. That first Wild West Party started it all. Now, each year’s sober Pride is themed and is extended through the entire three-day weekend."
The organization started in 2011 as a revolt against the debauchery of Pride weekend, and events managed to retain the fun without members wishing they were elsewhere. Buoyed by last year’s success, NYC Queer & Sober will increase their offerings for Pride 2012, featuring everything from a sober dance party overlooking Times Square, to a sexy Mr. Sobriety pageant to a dance cruise under the fireworks.
"Bringing a new and joyous light to a normally dark area is the general ethos of the organization NYC Queer & Sober," said Parker.
He said that organizers were very happy to have Kentucky Joe co-hosting the Mr. Sobriety Show, with celebrity judges Michael Musto and Gusty Winds.
"Normally, Pride weekend triggers a lot of people regardless of how long they have been sober," said Parker. Since options were traditionally limited, people (especially the younger ones) would venture out into nightclubs, bars, the Pier Dance and wind up relapsing. Some would just leave feeling out of place, which contributes to a low sense of self. Instead, Queer & Sober brings the excitement and authenticity of the party to them.
"It feels real. It feels like it’s the place to be," said Parker, who said that feedback like, "I don’t know if I would have made it through the weekend sober without your party," and "I never thought I would ever dance sober and there I was, having an awesome time," inspired organizers to get busy and start planning for the future.
The end results show that people are able to stay sober and have a great experience during Pride weekend. Queer & Sober’s many volunteers come from all walks of life, ages and programs. The experience of working on Q&S enables new bonds and friendships that weren’t possible before. Parker said that the enthusiasm of both guests and staff is contagious and spreads to others.
NYC Queer & Sober All Year Long
"We have received a lot of requests to bring Queer & Sober to other cities and markets," said Parker. "As flattered as we are, we are focusing on New York first so we can get everything right before branching out into places like Boston, New Orleans and Austin."
In addition to their June conference weekend during New York’s Gay Pride, Queer & Sober is expanding their programming throughout the calendar year. There will be a New Year’s Eve Party, a Halloween bash and an exciting new education component of the brand called our Q&S TALKS.
"Meetings are wonderful, but that’s not what this is," explained Parker. "Q&S TALKS are seminars that explore topics such as success in sobriety, sex in sobriety and other issues that matter to the sober community. Its aim is not to replace meetings, but to compliment them and enrich one’s sober life."
Studies show that an enormous part of the LGBT community struggles with substance abuse, not just in New York, but everywhere. Parker noted that places where there is a lot of partying usually have a lot of recovery options as well; these resources just have to be found. From Miami to Los Angeles to Paris, the opportunity to help and serve these people is there.
Queer & Sober organizers have tried to find a celebrity spokesperson, but admit, "It’s tricky. Although we are not officially connected with an anonymous 12-step organization, many of our participants come from there.
Even though sobriety is the newest status symbol, finding someone that can be the face of recovery is something that is just beyond the horizon," said Parker.