In recent years, Pride celebrations have brought together enormous crowds. Five million people attended WorldPride in New York City in 2019.

Pride 2020, however, couldn’t look more different. 

The global pandemic swiftly changed the thinking around large-scale public gatherings. “When COVID-19 instigated a chain reaction of cancellations, the queer community said let’s do this online,” Cathy Renna, interim communication director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, told USA Today earlier this month. “There was an immediate pivot to virtual.” 

And so late June is packed with digital events, from a Pride 2020 Dragfest and the Virtual Rally via NYC Pride site, to an online Stonewall Day, capped by Global Pride, a 24-hour virtual festival on June 27. 

But the international rise of Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have changed the picture further. A Black Trans Lives Matter protest last week, for instance, brought a crowd of thousands to the Brooklyn Museum.  Activists and allies have taken to the streets, despite the pandemic, to rally for change—and that energy has rejuvenated the LGBTQ+ community as well. 

A BLM rally in Los Angeles. Photo by Mike Vonn.

Pride and protest are intrinsically linked. While Pride has long been a celebration—and a chance to throw a great party—its roots have always been in social justice. As David Johns, the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, told the LA Times:  “Pride has more to do with what people are calling protests than it does with the parades that ignore all of these realities.” 

‘Pride’ as we know it started in 1970, with the famous Stonewall riots, in which the LGBTQ+ community in New York united against police raids. These events were instrumental in launching the gay liberation movement. While the community has made enormous strides in terms of its basic rights, the fight for LGBTQ+ equality is far from over.

A Pride celebration in Costa Rica. Photo by Ashly Araya.

“Pride isn’t just about parades, it’s about celebrating what makes our LGBTQ community thrive,” Amit Paley, CEO of our Giveback partners the Trevor Project, told us. “It’s about finding our strength even in times of challenge, sharing our joy even in moments of pain, and creating space to express and celebrate who we are.” 

Pride 2020 exists in a totally unique space, in the midst of both a public health crisis and a watershed moment for civil rights. Some of it will happen on the internet; some is happening in the streets. We spoke to 4 LGBTQ+ community members, including members of Team Lemonade, to see how they’ll be showing their pride in this unprecedented moment.  

Jason Osamede Okundaye

Okundaye is an activist and writer who has contributed to Vice, the Guardian, and Dazed, among other outlets. He is also a columnist for Tribune, and former president of the University of Cambridge Black and Minority Ethnic Campaign.

“On Twitter, @jaboukie joked that this is Black LGBTQ Pride month rather than a normal Pride month. I honestly think he’s right. 

The concurrence of Pride month and a historical second wave of Black Lives Matter protests means that we are forced to look at the intellectual thought of Black and queer people, and how they imagine building a world which is safe for them. World-making through imagination is one of the key cornerstones of liberation politics. Angela Davis, a Black feminist lesbian, has been repeatedly honored this month for her vision of abolitionism and a post-abolitionist world. 

Pride is about a radical reclamation of space from the heteronormative structures which discipline us and make heterosexuality compulsory. Uplifting Black, queer voices isn’t just about validating our existence, but honoring and taking seriously our political imaginations and visions of world-making. 

The best part of a virtual Pride is no police. It could be a blueprint for how we design community gathering in the future.

Black Pride is my highlight of the year—in effect its my ‘Black gay Christmas’—so I think I’ll probably try to arrange a zoom call with my Black queer friends where we can celebrate, read each other poetry from Essex Hemphill, and have a drink. Or I’ll have a look at what’s already being arranged by UK Black Pride.

I think the best part of a virtual Pride is no police, really. Within this BLM/Pride concurrence, we are having really serious conversations about the presence of police and policing in Pride, especially in marches. I think virtual Pride, being a space which is not monitored and guarded by police, could be a blueprint for how we design community gathering in the future.”

Lee Ellis

Ellis is on Lemonade’s Customer Experience team. Originally from California, she came out in the 9th grade. She is now based in Arizona, where she lives with her fiancé and two stepdaughters, 12 and 8.

“A regular Pride for me is getting out and going to the Phoenix Pride Festival (postponed this year until November). I love that you get to see drag shows, and get the freebies from companies you may not have known  supported the gay community. I also love the performers—my favorite Pride was when Bebe Rexha came. It was a a blast!

This year I am celebrating ‘virtual Pride’ by continuing to spread awareness via Facebook, where I have tons of family and friends who are either allies or a part of the community. One benefits to having Pride online is that you can reach out to more people than you otherwise would in person. Groups of all ages—like teenagers, who may not know what or who to talk to. Considering most of our lives are surrounded by technology, it’s the best communication tool we have!

One of the groups I follow is Human Rights Campaign. They look for equality in all aspects, and are always bringing awareness to the issues and battles that have been overcome within the community.”

Toby Marlow

Marlow is a composer and performer who wrote the Broadway musical SIX. He is also the founder of the Pinq Project, which is building an archive of positive queer narratives.

“As @alexand_erleon writes: Racism is a queer issue. The surge of the #BlackLivesMatter movement has led to an international interrogation of the racism in our lives, our industries, and our communities. 

In many ways it’s appropriate that this has coincided with Pride month. I think many of us like to think of the LGBTQIA+ community as a safe and inclusive space. However, our community is still rife with racism towards Black and queer people of color, and ignorance towards the Black and QPOC who fought for the rights and freedom that we have as queer people today. 

For me, this Pride month has been a time of introspection, education, listening, and action. I’ve been looking into my own racism, interrogating deeply-rooted prejudices I have towards the queer BIPOC in our community, reminding myself of ways I’ve caused harm to queer BIPOC in the past, and thinking of ways I can make my community safer and more inclusive of queer BIPOC. 

Pride is a time to reflect on the rights and freedom that we have, on who it was that fought for those freedoms, and on how many people do not benefit from that freedom in the same way due to their race.

To be honest, most of my virtual Pride plans have been postponed due to the current circumstances. I co-run an Insta account called Pinq where we’re building a list of positive queer narratives (from films, books, and TV shows) in which queer people don’t die. We had a Q&A series planned, but decided instead to celebrate Pride month by amplifying the voices, work, and talent of BIPOC. We’ve been posting positive queer narratives created by or centering QPOC—so go check out some amazing queer Black talent!

My favorite aspect of Pride is being around my queer friends, showing each other love, dancing, and celebrating being queer. So, I guess that one evening I’ll have to organize a Zoom with my queer pals, drink a bottle of Pinot, tell each other all the gorgeous things about each other, and dance the night away to Chromatica

That said, in many ways there are benefits to this Pride month being spent in lockdown. Unlike most summers, when our calendars are full of parades and parties, this year we have the space and time to really reflect on Pride—on the rights and freedom that we have, on who it was that fought for those freedoms, and on how many people in our community do not benefit from that freedom in the same way due to their race. 

When we turn the music down, we hear the voices that we’ve been drowning out.”

Wes MacBeth

MacBeth is currently the Office Manager at Lemonade’s NY Office, having spent his former professional life traveling the world singing on cruise ships.

“Pride isn’t happening as usual this year, in many ways. 

Global pride celebrations have been cancelled, and recent events have even turned Pride celebrations—which are normally about flaunting our colors and strength down the streets in cheers—into a march of protest. We are all coming together this year to fight for equal rights for our trans and Black communities. Now is the time to speak up and actively pick a side. 

50 years ago, the first bricks were thrown at the Stonewall Inn by Black trans and queer folk. They paved the way for all queer people to be able to celebrate.

I’m sad to not be going to fun Pride events this year with my friends and allies, but it’s not about that this year, and may not be for years to come. We had a huge victory recently with the Supreme Court Ruling, but that’s only one thing against a long list of inequalities we have to keep fighting for.

50 years ago, the first bricks were thrown at the Stonewall Inn by black trans and queer folk. They paved the way for all queer people to be able to celebrate. As a white, cis, gay man, I’ve reaped the benefits of being able to celebrate my queerness without a lot of pushback and trouble.

It’s disappointing that recent events made me realize this, but the people that started these protests are still fighting for their rights. It’s our time this Pride to fight even harder alongside with all of our queer allies to give all queer people equal rights and what they deserve as humans.

Pride in 2019. Photo courtesy the Trevor Project.

Although there is not a public march, there are countless virtual events and fundraisers we can all take part in. One I’m going to tune in on is the “Can’t Cancel Pridebenefit streaming on iHeartRadio’s Facebook, Instagram, and PrideRadio.com on June 25. Laverne Cox is co-hosting and LGBTQ+ celebrities like Billy Porter and Ricky Martin, and Kim Petras will be involved, too. 

Part of this benefit will be raising visibility on how the queer community has been impacted by the pandemic. Health resources have been redirected, negatively affecting LGBTQ+ clinics—not to mention Trump’s revision of the Affordable Care Act, removing anti-discrimination language put in place by the Obama administration. 

Even though I won’t be on Fire Island having high tea, or running around the West Village with my friends, we will still definitely have a Zoom party and celebrate (likely with lots of screen-sharing of videos from all the great music released this year). 

I think having Pride virtually is going to be more powerful than ever. People will truly realize the meaning of Pride, see how far we’ve come—and how far we have to go.”

 

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