June has been Pride month since the stonewall riots on June 28, 1969. But June looked a little different this year, and amid COVID-19, Pride month seems to have almost disappeared from sight.
A year after the biggest pride celebration in 2019 which marked the 50th anniversary of the stonewall riots in which 2.5 million people attended the world pride in New York, 2020 saw more than 100 pride celebrations cancelled in the UK, leaving many LGBTQ+ people without a community and feeling isolated during quarantine.
The usual show of support from companies died down this year, either because they decided they could no longer profit from pink washing (the marketing strategy that promotes products as gay-friendly in order to sell them) or because they can now replace their ‘good deed quota’- usually filled with Pride contributions- with showing support for essential workers and the NHS instead. So, Pride appears to have mostly gone unmentioned. It has become invisible, which is especially damaging in a movement all about visibility.
In this way, the virus and the inability for actual pride gatherings have exposed the majority of companies as performative in their support of pride. This is clear in Plymouth City’s rebranding of their “pride bus” to celebrate the NHS instead. As much as the NHS is important, especially right now, this rebranding of the rainbow flag has led only to further isolation and invisibility for the LGBTQ+ community.
It has become Invisible, Which is especially damaging in a movement all about visibility.
Pride events were rightfully cancelled, but the COVID era has led to, post-COVID, the rainbow flag – which has been ours for years – to stand for something else. Seeing a rainbow flag in a window no longer means an ally in your neighbourhood or a member of the community around the corner, but is ambiguous in its meaning. Pride is centred around community, which, due to a lack of visibility and cancellation of Pride events, has been increasingly difficult to find during the pandemic.
As Chris Frederick, former executive director of NYC Pride states: “there is a need to connect … whether it’s virtually or in person, that’s what Pride is all about”. The inability to connect and form communities during COVID-19 has impacted the LGBTQ+ community, especially those in isolated or rural areas, or those who do not have a close support system.
The general lack of visibility for the LGBTQ+ community in the current era is especially interesting when considering that right now shouldn’t be the time for pride to be silenced. According to research, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be affected by COVID-19 than heterosexuals, because of the intersection between queer people and poverty as well as thedifferences experienced in their treatment by health systems and a higher likelihood to lose a job during the pandemic. This, alongside the intersection between LGBTQ+ people and people of colour, means that now, amid a global pandemic and the global black lives matter movement, is the time to protest- which incidentally was the basis of the original Pride- rather than keep quiet.
The need for Pride has not disappeared. Pride has never been a party or a festival, and thus cannot be simply postponed or cancelled in the same manner. The issues have not been resolved, as seen in the continuous murder of transgender women around the world and Trump’s affordable care act rule that allows health care discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. ride is still a protest, and it is still absolutely necessary.
There are also those quarantined with people who refuse to accept them, for whom a sense of community and belonging is needed now more than ever – and yet seems to have disappeared. With so many opportunities for support cut off, the queer youth have been left vulnerable in an already tumultuous time, the performativity of commercial and political pride exposed to leave LGBTQ+ young people in isolation.
Moreover, Pride plays a key role in garnering support for smaller LGBT organisations and charities. Without the big parades, which are now attended by all people, queer or not, many smaller LGBT organisations have struggled from a loss in funds. Smaller groups often do not have institutional funds and rely on donations, but with mass unemployment and the damage that COVID19 has done to the economy, donations can no longer be relied upon.
For me, this year would have been my first Pride after coming out and not being able to be surrounded by like-minded people, the removal of not only the pride event but the whole pride season, has been disappointing.
However, as much as it has been difficult dealing with the cancellation and the removal of the normally prevalent pride symbols and support, pride as a feeling can never be quashed. The LGBTQ+ community is resilient, accepting and warm. As a community it has survived a lot and is filled with people willing to help each other.
Although that community could not physically gather this year, there are other ways to connect, through various social media groups, and through media that continues to represent the LGBTQ+ community, and through the involvement in or donation to those smaller LGBTQ+ charities that need help. There are many ways to feel and experience Pride, and although the physical Pride events were cancelled, the feeling and meaning of Pride lives on.
If you want to donate to smaller, Sheffield or UK based LGBTQ+ charities here are some links;
https://sayit.org.uk/donate/ (Sheffield based charity for LGBTQ+ youth)
https://www.akt.org.uk/donate/roomforlove/10 (UK based charity for homeless LGBTQ+ youth)