In non-pandemic related news, it’s officially Pride Month. Unfortunately, it’s also a time of devastation, chaos, and upheaval as crisis rocks the nation. But in the wake of recent events, there is also a spirit of change in the air. For anyone familiar with the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan- and we all should be- the recent protests are a reminder that positive change comes only when old norms are broken down. Only then can new ones take their place in society. Yet despite the echoes of the past, some people might find it more challenging to celebrate Pride this year. With hundreds of Americans taking peacefully (or not-so-peacefully) to the streets in support of black lives, we can still taste the bitterness of America’s recent loss: a black American man who died at the hands of a police officer.
Still, people are seeking togetherness during this time- not just because there is power and strength in numbers, but because human beings need connection more than ever. Unity has been the cornerstone of the LGBTQIA+ movement since it came into fruition. We’re predicting that this year will be no different, but it might take a little extra help to get together. Here are some ideas for celebrating Pride during this unique, unprecedented time.
Virtual Pride Events Bring Remote Queer Communities Together
With the stay at home order slowly being lifted, outdoor gatherings with limited numbers of people are approved in most states. That said, large gatherings are still on hold, and more than 200 Price celebrations have been canceled or postponed around the world. Without crowds to support them, many small businesses, resorts, and entertainment centers have been severely impacted by the pandemic; lots of them have been forced to close their doors altogether. Of course, queer communities are no exception.
For example, look at Boston. Normally, this time of year finds the city teeming with pride: The Prudential Center is usually ablaze with trademark rainbow lights, colorful flags wave in the wind, and the annual Pride parade leaves glitter trails on the streets. But early on in the pandemic, the Boston Pride committee reluctantly announced that all of 2020’s in-person events would be postponed until next year. Fire Island, which has long celebrated the queer community and is a notorious hot spot for Pride events and drag events, will be desolate this year.
And let’s not forget that this isn’t the first time queer communities have been rocked by a pandemic. Millennials and younger generations may not have had to suffer the AIDS pandemic firsthand, but its devastating effects on the LGTBQIA+ community are ongoing. Unfortunately, this population is no stranger to the discrimination, safety risks, and inequity that are exacerbated by a pandemic. Normally, Pride month is a powerful way for the queer community to rise above by celebrating who they are and finding strength togetherness. This year will still bring opportunities for this, some more unique than before. But people- and businesses- will have to delve into their creativity and resourcefulness to make these celebrations a success.
Amid all of this chaos and uncertainty, communities are turning to Zoom and other virtual hosts for online Pride celebrations. Not only do these virtual events keep Pride alive and well as we continue to fight a pandemic, but they will presumably have a global impact on togetherness. The importance of bringing remote queer communities together can be vastly overshadowed by exciting, in-person celebrations that immerse revelers in a sensory experience. But in the wake of COVID-19, virtual events have secondary perks for the LGBTQIA+ community. For example, in areas where queer people face more adversity and discrimination, virtual events provide a safe place to socialize with other queer people, find self-expression, and celebrate Pride. The overall effect is unifying, and enhances the spirit of togetherness among a community for which Pride events are a touchstone.
The Importance of Celebrating Pride
The significance of honoring and celebrating Pride month amid a pandemic cannot be overlooked. Obviously, Pride month is a hallmark a powerful history in which the queer community fought hard to embark on an uphill battle for their rights in society. Pride is not only a commemoration of this, but a reminder to the queer community, which still faces isolation and discrimination globally and in the U.S., that they belong. Pride provides more than a safe, joyful space in society to express one’s sexual and/or gender identity to the fullest; it also enhances the overall sense of belonging and togetherness that queer members of society feel.
Enter the world of drag shows, dance parties, and creative online performances. Many organizations that host annual Pride events, such as Boston Pride, are turning to virtual programming to keep iconic celebrations alive. For example, the flag raising ceremony at City Hall happily still took place this year. Hundreds of other virtual Pride events are cropping up all over the internet, so we’d like to share a variety of them with you.
The Show Goes on in NYC
Second only to San Francisco as the queer capital of the United States, New York is working hard to continue entertaining and educating throughout Pride month. Playbill is doing its part by live streaming theatrical events from the LGTBQIA+ canon on its website. It is also hosting features and interviews with the artists, giving performers a viable way to continue working and connect with their audience. On June 28th, the dazzling Pride Spectacular Concert will showcase powerful messages of pride from the past and present. Connecting with queer roots and moving forward is one of the most vital parts of Pride month, and Playbill obviously honors this truth.
Gay Activists Alliance Makes More History
Despite the pandemic, Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) is making history again. After the riots in Stonewall, GAA implemented a tactic they called “zap”. Basically, “zap” was a call to action to directly, publicly confront political figures and institutions regarding the rights and equality of LGBT individuals. The tactic was designed to draw media attention to GAA’s cause, which was essentially to liberate the queer community from discrimination, inequity, and isolation.
We may not be able to go back in time- and in many ways this is a very good thing- but we can explore history together. The NYC LGBT Sites Project is presenting a virtual tour of the Zap sites where positive change was thrust upon an anti-queer mainstream society. On June 16th, you can be a part of history in the making by attending ZAP! A Virtual Tour of Post-Stonewall Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) Actions.
San Francisco is Using Pride Month to Rebuild
Despite the typical sunny mood of progressive San Francisco during Pride month, the city is understandably feeling under the weather this year. With so many livelihoods lost or at risk, the destruction and despair has been deepened by the looting of small businesses. Beloved pride celebrations have not only been canceled, but cultural landmarks are being threatened by financial loss and rioting.
All of that said, San Francisco has not forgotten its roots, which are firmly planted in progress and liberation. Many large and small organizations recognize that the need for unity, togetherness, and rebuilding is more vital than it has been in decades. For example, Shop with Pride is an online resource where people can find small businesses and support them.
San Francisco has also found a way to get its pre-party on despite the pandemic. In order to show solidarity with the black community, this all-day queer event was postponed from early June to June 12th. This massive celebration features creators from around the world, and has the potential to be globally unifying online.
One of the largest, most diverse pride events in the world, The All-Day Queer Event Festival includes Quaran-Tea with the SF Queer Night Life Fund, A Mental Wellness Moment with Healing Black Women, and many more events in which knowledge brings people together. The Drag-Alive Drag Happy Hour Show streams from San Francisco’s oldest queer bar. Cocktails and Mocktails and Drag gives online revelers a taste of Brooklyn from Brooklyn Donna; Eventbrite shares plentiful Pride 2020 resources; the victims of Pulse Nightclub are honored by a pre-pride warm up; a feature-length screening“The Fathers Project” shows online. Although no one can deny the painful loss of beloved in-person events, The All-Day Queer Event Festival is obviously doing everything it can to live up to its name by drawing on its many resources.
The cancellation of the Gay Men’s Chorus is bittersweet despite the fact that it will still be performed virtually- and for free. SFGMC TV is proudly hosting an online performance of John Legend’s If You’re Out There, interviews with beloved stage and screen performers, and presentations from their youth education programs and artistic teams.San Francisco is also providing virtual tours of Castro’s street art and the Leather District. San Francisco locals can even celebrate by ordering a pastry penis from the aptly named Hot Cookie, which personalizes and delivers cookies to the recipient.
The History Project’s Back Bay space is normally open to the public, showcasing hundreds of queer artwork and publications. Although it is temporarily closed due to the pandemic, the organization is beginning a new, virtual project called #QueerArchivesAtHome. QueerArchivesatHome is basically an candid look into the lives of queer people, and invotes them to share pictures, stories, and videos. This content will be added to The History Project’s social media pages and digital repository. The exhibit will have a natural element of intimacy that the Back Bay Space didn’t necessarily have, adding intrigue to the online space. After all, we’re essentially still making history from home, and sharing it is a way to keep connected and artistically inspired.
And for the bookworms among us, celebrating pride from the comfort of home may have at least a few perks. For example, an event called “Literary Pub Crawl: Pride Edition” takes attendees on a virtual tour of LGBTQ authors, poets, and artists who are integral to the history of Greenwich Village. Think Edna St. Vincent Millay, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, and more.
The bottom line: There is no wrong or right way to celebrate Pride month, especially in the chaotic midst of a pandemic. As some states reach their peak and others begin to reopen with restrictions, some people will choose to gather in limited groups. Others will feel safer celebrating from home and being part of beloved pride celebrations from home. Worldwide, these trying circumstances are serving to strengthen the spirit of Pride month, which is one of acceptance and strength in togetherness. Let’s allow this to be a reminder to practice acceptance and have compassion for the way different people choose to celebrate- together or alone, outside or indoors.
We know that this time means different things to different people, and that its impact is complex for everyone. While some may be working from home and/or taking this time to reconnect with what’s most important to them, others are too stressed with physical, financial, or emotional concerns to do more than survive. And when it comes to Pride month, some may feel comfortable connecting with others online to celebrate; others may be depressed that their in-person celebrations are cancelled, and are having difficulty coping with the loss. The point is that we all make a sincere effort to honor each other’s experiences, and make things as easy as possible for each other. Now is a time to listen, learn, and follow the heart. Being true to oneself while reaching out to help and be with others is always a precarious balance; indeed it is a challenge, but it is one we are collectively rising to in 2020.
All of that said, Happy Pride Month, and do you!