The pain and the ability to thwart gay pride celebrations

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Participants take part in the NYC Pride March as part of WorldPride's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, on June 30, 2019.

These dueling atmospheres make the fact that the pandemic largely thwarted pride – exactly five decades after activists gathered New York’s inaugural Christopher Street Liberation Day March, celebrated to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots – still seem deeper.

For 22-year-old Em Panetta (who is not binary and takes the pronoun “them”), this June would mark a consequent moment: their first pride.

“Last year, starting from last summer, it was pretty much a big hit for me, so this summer was supposed to be a really celebratory time for me – a time to travel to New York City (from the Philadelphia area) and be out with my community, instead of being on the sidelines like I have done in recent years, “Panetta told CNN.

Panetta continued, “Since the Pride celebrations have been canceled in person, there has been some mourning process. It’s hard to know that you almost had this special experience.”

Ache. It is an idea that Ethan Johnstone, 38, founder and chief community builder Pride Link, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of LGBTQ people in the region of the northern state of South Carolina, also used to describe the absence of Pride this year.

“Pride offers me the opportunity to be my true self and to be free from worrying if I am looked at in a certain way or if I have to respond to comments or harassment,” said Johnstone. “The first pride I went to was in Spartanburg, after going out as a trans. So for me it’s an event rooted in authenticity.”

“Not having this summer,” added Johnstone, “seems to be missing a large part of my year – the excitement of getting ready and understanding what I will wear and meeting people. There is a pain in the lack of it all.”

Political opportunity missed

Sometimes, the season can be more openly political. It’s not hard to understand why: although at the beginning of his term, President Donald Trump attempted to self-destruct as a custodian of LGBTQ rights – “(I am) determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community.” stated in a January 2017 statement – his administration has not been very friendly with this group.
A ProPublica 2019 report on the history of the Trump administration on LGBTQ issues “has found dozens of changes that represent a profound remodeling of the ways in which the federal government treats the more than 11 million American lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders”. These changes include reversed, eliminated, removed and withdrawn LGBTQ protections in areas ranging from employment and healthcare to criminal justice and public life.
“Pride is a fundamental part of our political commitment”, Kit Malone, 45, lawyer and educator at Indiana ACLU, She said. “That’s where we connect with other organizations. It’s where we connect with individual LGBTQ people who just want to know more about their rights.”
In places like Mike Pence countryFull of conservatism such that bizarre experiences often seem different than those in more progressive enclaves, the meaning of Pride can increase dramatically. Especially for those of small towns, the single month can safely give life to the password of so many civil rights movements: visibility.
“We follow around 20 rural pride celebrations in Indiana. They go from a small potluck in a refuge in a park to Spencer Pride Festival, which has been featured in national news and attracts thousands of attendees from across the region, “said Malone (due to Covid-19, the festival has been postponed).” These meetings help us identify strange people who might be under-serviced, who may not have spaces where they can happily celebrate themselves. ”
“When I think about the balance of pride cancellations,” Malone continued, “those are the people I think of – the people who don’t live near a big city, to whom they may not have access. gay bar, who can suffer from higher levels of isolation. “
Far from welcoming environments, the mere presence of Pride can have political significance. Punctual Todd Leslie, 71, reflected on the 1980s when he traveled with college-age LGBTQ people to march to Florida, where he lives and beyond.
“I know it sounds silly today, but these guys, as I call them, had to gather a lot of courage to do it,” said Leslie. “One year, I took a group to a march in Jacksonville, which is very conservative. We were in a park, and there were many people protesting that we were there. The children were nervous and uncomfortable – and they stayed that way when Dykes on a bike He showed up. “(He told the latter part with a warm chuckle.)

According to Leslie, all that can be taken away from you is political: “The core of Pride is the idea of ​​not taking things for granted that have been hard won”.

Pride, reinvented

Outdoor activities have been canceled. But that doesn’t mean that Pride’s spirit has been completely foiled. As it became common during the pandemic, some holidays have moved online – an imperfect stand-in, but which speaks of LGBTQ resilience.
For example, in May, New York City pride announced that there will be a three-day virtual drag show from June 19 to June 21, with over 100 artists, including former students of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. In addition, the actor and co-creator of “Schitt’s Creek” Dan Levy will be one of the four great marshals, and the singer Janelle Monáe and the actor “Pose” Billy Porter among the actors, for a special broadcast of 28 June.

In particular, the pandemic forced another conversation on how to improve the observation of pride.

Fifty years later, the event “evolved into something impossible to untangle from many of the most insidious aspects of consumption and capitalism,” the Northwestern University writer and professor. Steven Thrasher tweeted in April, following announcements of nixed in person Pride celebrations.

“We need something new to address the working, environmental, anti-racist and economic challenges of LGBTQ people,” said Thrasher.

Over the decades, criticisms of Pride – the way it tends to elevate only a narrow range of LGBTQ experiences, as it is stuffed with cops – have inspired alternative celebrations.

After reporting for years, DC Dyke March, which was held for the first time in 1993 to embrace activism between queer women and emphasize the distinct power of dam as a political signifier, he returned last June. It is not affiliated with Pride. The goal is to “center trans, queer, lesbian and other dam identities” neglected by the LGBTQ movement, as stated on the Facebook page for this year’s online meeting, Dykes Go Digital.
“When I think of Pride, I think of more Pride,” Preston Mitchum, 34, Washington-based director of nonprofit policy URGE: United for reproductive and gender equity, he told CNN. “We have Black Pride. We have Trans Pride. We have Youth Pride. It breaks my heart not to see the joy, the clothes, the friends. But since we can’t have them this summer, I hope people will make it clear that the guilds don’t they make pride great. Communities do. “
In fact, this common spirit seems to be that some organizers are tapping as they claim the roots of the Pride activist to support Black Lives Matter’s current protests against police brutality.

Mitchum added: “Nothing good will come from a deadly pandemic that was preventable. At the same time, people have the opportunity to reassess what they exactly need from their communities – and for themselves. They have the opportunity to dream differently. . “

One way of thinking about the pandemic is in terms of theft. In a few months he robbed people so much: careers, lives, small but also great pleasures. In all this is a dark intimacy, especially for some. Being strange in America means being familiar with a similar type of loss, due to years of state-sanctioned bigotry and abandonment.

However, being queer also means knowing what can happen after that loss: kinship and connection that can transcend almost anything.

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