The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new and unfortunate reality for all of us. Among the casualties are large scale social gatherings. Since 1970, around the world, people celebrate Gay Pride in June. But this year, things are a lot different. The usual festivities and shows of solidarity with the LGBTQ community will not have huge crowds, parades, parties, or concerts.
Not only is it sad that we can’t celebrate, but socially-distanced Pride also has deeper political and social implications. But even though times are difficult and the future is a little uncertain, hope is not lost! As of now, all around the globe people took to their computers to celebrate and show solidarity and support at over 500 digital Pride events, with more to come.
True, we can’t dance, kiss, or embrace each other, but we can still love one another and wait for the day that this storm will pass.
A Little Bit of Pride Background
Today, the LGBTQ community is still the target of a lot of oppression, homophobia, and prejudice, especially in the West. Though things aren’t always easy, there is substantial evidence that there has been progress.
Prior to the Civil Rights movement and the general change in sensibilities that took place in the 1960s in the U.S., prejudice against gays and lesbians pervaded society on every level; legal and extra-legal. In June 1969, the gay community of Manhatten got so fed up with the repressive practices aimed at them by bigots and police, that they decided to fight back.
After a few nights of rioting and days of protest, a few prominent members of the community proposed that the way to move forward is by having a massive march through the city. The Pride movement was thus born. The following year, the Gay Pride Parade was officially inaugurated.
In subsequent days, weeks, months, and decades, the movement spread first across North America and the rest of the world. As of today, almost 50 years after the riots in Stonewall, Pride events are held on every continent. the world still has a long way to go before people (and some countries) stop marginalizing LGBTQ people, but it’s moving in the right direction.
What Happened This Year?
Due to social distancing measures, the celebrations (some solemn, some carnivalesque) could not be held. Social interactions increase the virus spread, so the characteristically large gathering of Pride events did not take place. For example, Tel Aviv, Israel, hosts the biggest Pride parade in Asia – usually about 250,000 people. But this year, its streets were devoid of festivities.
Not being able to go out, celebrate, and show support hit members of the community extra hard. For some (especially those that live in conservative countries governed by repressive regimes) Pride month is a rare opportunity to openly express and be themselves – which was sadly missed this year.
For some LGBTQ people, their families are not supportive, so being trapped at home with them is difficult. Also, the lack of mass gathering meant severely diminished fundraising.
Beyond the personal implications, there are also political ones. Time magazine reported that some repressive governments have taken advantage of the coronavirus measures in order to further disenfranchise gay, trans, and queer individuals.
Hungary, for instance, proposed a bill that would make gender changes in legal documents illegal. Some regions in Poland have legislated “LGBTQ-free zones.” Sadly, other examples of state-sponsored bigotry exist.
Reason for Hope
Though Pride events were cancelled this year, we shouldn’t lose hope. At the beginning of this month, Forbes alone released a list of over 500 digital Pride events. These included speeches, other speaking events, beauty shows, movie screenings, and much more.
Again, though we can’t embrace each other physically this year, we can still stay in close contact with one another and we wait eagerly for things to go back to normal. Last year, in the U.S. alone over 20 million people participated in Pride events, shattering previously recorded years. All this love and energy isn’t going anywhere, so see you all next year!