Pride is Not Cancelled: The Importance of Community During Tough Times

Valarie Stepaniak

Behavioral health coach at Ginger. Master’s Degree from the University of Denver. Focused on building community through education and connection.

Pride is Not Cancelled: The Importance of Community During Tough Times

A global pandemic, an uprising for Black lives, and a monumental Supreme Court decision. It’s hard to believe that all of this has transpired during the rainbow-colored month of June. Loss has come with opportunity, racism has come with an international uprising, and devastation has come with triumph. Despite its turbulence, the month of June 2020 has steadily enforced the importance of community, allyship, and celebration.

For the LGBTQIA+ community, the month of June — Pride month — is an annual holiday. Pride festivals around the globe are a safe place for folks to be around others that accept them and celebrate them for exactly who they are. The month of June, and its celebrations and parades give LGBTQIA+ folks visibility and the platform to raise awareness of issues, normalize LGBTQIA+ families and recognize history and progress. As a woman that identifies as a lesbian, I vividly remember my first pride celebration and what it meant to me. For the first time ever, I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Pride month is also a moment to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done.

This year, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of the Pride parade, first held in New York City on June 28th, 1970. It followed the final year of the Stonewall Riots — five nights of protests, riots and unrest that gave the LGBTQIA+ population the rights we have today. These riots were spearheaded by two transgender women of color — Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

In the midst of the global pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and countless others has triggered the crucial Black Lives Matter movement. As a community that has been marginalized, the LGBTQIA+ community deeply understands how important it is to stand in solidarity with a fellow community that has experienced the pain of marginalization, discrimination, and oppression. In the vital light of the Black Lives Matter movement, 2020’s Pride celebration has shifted — it has now also become an opportunity for deep reflection on the historical injustices and interconnected fight for anti-racist and anti-discriminatory policies and actions.

This past week we saw the Supreme Court rule to protect against workplace discrimination — an incredibly important victory for our LGBTQIA+ community. It takes time to develop trust and to see sustained change. In many ways, this ties to what we’re seeing in the Black community — while there’s reason to be hopeful given the recent dismantling of statues and rallying cries from allies, sustained progress is needed. In many ways, our two communities are united.

Building a sense of community and support is essential right now. Positive relationships and a sense of belonging are essential to our experience as human beings, and even more so when we are a part of a community that has been discriminated against. There is power in community — people who we can relate to, people who understand our experience and people who can lift us up and tell us we matter. For those who are coming out as lesbian, transgender, queer and or gay, it is essential to have people that see and accept us for who we are.

With this, I propose that we don’t cancel our Pride celebrations. The Pride in the community and the justice that has been fought for can never be cancelled. Celebrations, connections, events and community needs to be built in a different way. It is now more important than ever to connect with our community and reach out to those who are isolated, in order to build support.

Here are six ways to be part of your LGBTQIA+ community and celebrate Pride virtually:

Participate in Global Pride: The international organization InterPride is collaborating with the European Pride Organizers Association for Global Pride, the first worldwide LGBTQIA+ event — a 24-hour live-streamed celebration on June 27th. The event will feature speeches, music performances and support from world leaders, pop stars and other icons, and it will include a focus on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Check out local celebrations: Many states and countries across the globe are holding their celebrations virtually. Check with your local LGBTQIA+ community center for celebration dates and times.

Host your own virtual Pride Party: Host a Zoom party with your closest friends and family.

Donate: consider donating to a local, national or international organization that supports LGBTQIA+ social, health care and legal support and advocacy. A great list can be found here.

Express your allyship: My colleague Elissa Burdick has written about this topic here.

Be an activist in your community. Speak up for what you believe in.

Like many others in the LGBTQIA+ community, I am feeling a tremendous loss due to the cancellation of the parade in my home city. And while it’s important to acknowledge this loss, it’s more important that we put our heads and hearts together to reflect and build community. Reach out to someone you know who is a part of the LGBTQIA+ community to wish them a happy Pride, consider donating to a LGBTQIA+ organization or reach out to someone you know who is isolated and could use extra support. Create a virtual community table to share a virtual bottle of wine while wearing your rainbow boa. Listen, reflect, share and connect with those who you may have lost touch with and who need support. Find opportunity in the disconnect, to connect and create community and remember that mental health resources and support are available when these times feel tough.

Finally, let’s not forget where Pride started — with a group of marginalized folks, fighting for justice. While we still have work ahead of us, we have come a long way and that’s worth celebrating.