For many, June is a month of rainbows, glitter and celebration, as groups across the country and around the world celebrate Pride and LGBTQ+ communities. This past June was different, however, because of the ongoing global pandemic that moved festivals from city parks to virtual spaces and the civil unrest that transformed parades into protests.
Across the country, as COVID-19 consumed plans for Pride festivals and parties, members of the queer communities took to the streets in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and other protests against police brutality. Sparked by the death of George Floyd and fueled by the historical inequity and frustration, protests, riots and gatherings erupted into deafening conversation demanding change.
For the LGBTQ+ community, this sort of activism calls to the very roots of the Pride celebrations.
“Pride is celebrated every June in remembrance of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which was the catalyst to the gay rights movement. These riots were led by Black queer people and Black trans people, in particular,” said Dr. Ryan Thoroman, coordinator for the Office of the Bursar. “In lieu of a traditional celebration, I have been inspired and emboldened by the Black Lives Matter movement to use this June to show support and solidarity.”
The landscape of these ongoing protests has been littered with rainbow flags and cardboard signs adding queer voices to the conversation in allyship and shared history. Signs and chants of “Trans Black Lives Matter” and “Pride was a Riot” have served as a reminder that the LGBTQ+ community has a place in this fight and a past that reflects the same values of equality.
“Pride 2020 has really been about helping me remember the roots and history of Pride and honoring that by using my voice and power to elevate and magnify the voices of the Black community as they’re fighting through historical and systemic trauma and injustice for equity and peace,” said Peter Moosman, director of the SLCC Gender and Sexuality Student Resource Center.
“While we have made tremendous strides forward, many of my queer sisters and brothers, both here and abroad, still face daily hardships because of their identity. We can pay that debt to Marsha P. Johnson, Bayard Rustin, Harvey Milk, and others by continuing this fight and doing all we can to advocate for those in need, like our trans and BIPOC communities,” said Thoroman.
There may not be parades this year. There may not be drag shows and rainbow merchandising from favorite brands. There may be a lack of parties and pageantry, but Pride, by no means, was “canceled” in 2020. Instead, the LGBTQ+ community celebrated, advocated and marched shoulder to (socially distanced) shoulder with BIPOC for global change.
Johnson, a Black transgender activist, famously said, “No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”
“Pride 2020 is encapsulated in that statement. We cannot truly celebrate pride without fighting for the liberation of all oppressed communities and identities, and Pride 2020 is forcing humanity to truly hear her words and do something about them,” said Moosman.
“I also believe Pride is a call to action — challenging folks who are engaging in allyship work to learn more and be more, pushing us to check our blind spots, speak up for and with the most marginalized in our communities, and fight for positive, more equitable change,” added Moosman.
“Action” has been a near-universal call in response to these protests and conversations. The importance of examining privilege, history, identity, education and advocacy has been embraced and encouraged as people rally behind the demand for equity.
“I have been attending protests and better educating myself through literature, podcasts, and films. I have also been challenging department colleagues, family, and friends, to join me on this journey of self-reflection: to explore our implicit biases and ultimately strive to be anti-racist,” said Thoroman.
Institutions and organizations have also taken up this call to action and many have begun work to be better workplaces, colleagues and companies.
“I have also encouraged my work team to look outward and consider systemic problems which live within our department, college, and community which discourage rather than empower our students of color,” said Thoroman. “Many on our team will be participating in the 21-day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge organized by the YWCA and I encourage others to join us.”
Pride started as a riot and a celebration of action and equity, and in 2020, though filled with less glitter and fashion, Pride month continued to stand in solidarity and support for change and equality.
Thoroman and Moosman recommend the following resources to learn about LGBTQ lives, history and representation.
Movies and TV Shows: “The Normal Heart,” “Pose,” “Disclosure,” “Moonlight,” “Boy Erased,” “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” “A Fantastic Woman,” “Milk,” “Paris is Burning,” “Pariah,” “Schitt’s Creek,” “The Imitation Game,” “Sex Education,” “Disobedience,” “Freeheld,” “Believer,” and “Love, Victor.”
LGBTQ+ Books: “Queer: A Graphic History.” According to Thoroman, “This beautifully illustrated book is a wonderful and highly accessible introduction to queer theories.”
Books about LGBTQ+ and Christianity: “Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christian Debate,” “God and the Gay Christian,” “Gay Rights and the Mormon Church,” and “Tabernacle of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism.”