Story at a glance
- Social distancing measures are still in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to the cancellation of large events such as festivals.
- Nearly 400 Pride Parades have already been canceled or postponed this year.
- This will be the first year in the history of formally celebrating Pride that in-person festivities will not take place.
- The European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) and other organizations have band together to put on a digital Global Pride event to take place June 27.
Last June, the streets of New York City were filled with more than 2.5 million people from far and wide to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the history-making Stonewall Riots — the rebellious protest of an anti-gay police raid that catalyzed a movement. Despite the riots symbolizing a contentious piece of US history and the fact that LGBTQ+ rights are still seemingly hanging in the balance, the community and their allies took the time that month to celebrate the progress that’s been made over the last several decades.
This year will look much different for a number of reasons, as LGBTQ+ Pride parades across the world have been either cancelled or postponed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Even as certain states have started loosening restrictions on social interaction and businesses start to reopen, large gatherings of any kind have continued to be cancelled through the summer.
Late last month, New York City joined other major cities such as Seattle and Los Angeles when mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the June 28 WorldPride parade and Pride Month events are officially postponed. It was followed by a cancellation announcement by Heritage of Pride organizers — the first in Pride’s 50-year history.
San Francisco, another city known for its proud LGBTQ+ community, was also forced to cancel the city’s parade and celebration, which occurs through June. “Uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified in recent weeks, and the organization has concluded that the risks to public health of a large-scale gathering such as Pride preclude this year’s production of the annual event,” city officials announced in a public statement, also marking the first time the city's parade has been called off.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said mass gatherings likely won't be safe until a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 is approved — which may not happen for more than a year, also putting into question how planned festivals and celebrations will proceed later this year and next.
Taking Pride online
San Francisco and New York are just two of the nearly 400 pride celebrations that have either been canceled or postponed, according to an ongoing list from the European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA).
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Instead, the EPOA has teamed up with InterPride to throw what they’re now calling Global Pride, a digital celebration of LGBTQ+ rights and culture. It will take place on June 27, the anniversary of Stonewall, and use online platforms to deliver a Pride in which everyone can participate from the comfort and safety of their homes. Expect musical performances, speeches and key messages from human rights activists and celebrities.
The EPOA and InterPride have announced that they’re working with national organizations in Canada, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the U.S., as well as regional networks in southern Africa, Asia, Oceania and Latin America in order to bring global communities and Pride organizations together for the first time.
“The unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 mean that most Prides will not take place as planned in 2020, but we’re determined that this won’t stop us from coming together as a united, strong LGBTQIA+ community to celebrate who we are and what we stand for,” says Kristine Garina, President of the European Pride Organisers Association.
“We need community and connection more than ever. This gives us an opportunity to both connect and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community’s resilience in the face of this pandemic and the true spirit of Pride. Pride 2020 represents a milestone for Pride events, with many honouring the 50th anniversary of their first gatherings and marches, such as New York to the first Gandhinagar Pride this year and we would not let that pass without recognition and celebration.”
Some cities have already begun announcing their contributions to the global festival, such as San Antonio, Texas, which has opted to move their Pride Bigger Than Texas 2020 online. A statement by Pride San Antonio states that the updated festival will feature entertainment and performances in addition to raising money for several organizations, including the local nonprofit Fiesta Youth. Entertainers like Cynthia Lee Fontane, the '80s girl group The Cover Girls, and Angel Bonilla from “The Voice” are set to perform.
More than just a parade
Pride events now draw more than 20 million people onto the streets annually in the U.S alone according to an estimate by InterPride, but they didn’t always used to be that way. Pride marches and celebrations have been held since June 1970, when New York City Gay Liberation activists held a march to mark the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion. Pride in the early days were much smaller and more overtly political than the corporate-sponsored festivals happening now, and highly focused on advocating for the decriminalization of homo- and transsexuality.
“Pride brings us together in times of protest and times of celebration,” said San Diego Pride executive director Fernando Zweifach Lopez, who is now working with InterPride to launch this year’s Global Pride celebration. “Pride helps connect us to community and our found family. Pride gives us access to life-saving direct services and provides grant funding to our local and global LGBTQ community,” he said.
While some members of the LGBTQ+ community are critical of how today’s festivals are run, and the corporate dollars that back them, advocacy and fundraising are still critical components of Pride month — a component that experts are worried will take a massive hit due to cancellations of festivals worldwide. Small LGBTQ+ groups often depend on those fundraising dollars earned from Pride-related events to help serve their communities throughout the rest of the year.
Some of these groups are already in jeopardy, and Jarrett Lucas, CEO of the Stonewall Foundation, told NBC News that the nonprofit’s emergency response fund shot up from one to two requests for financial assistance per day before the pandemic to about a dozen daily, with organizations warning that without support they will soon be forced to close their doors for good.
This is bad news for a community that is in more need of financial support than ever as a result of the pandemic. The LGBTQ+ community was already suffering from higher rates of unemployment, food insecurity and lack of insurance beforehand. Experts are now stressing that while this year’s Pride should also be about celebration as always, the more pressing matter at hand is rallying for community support and visibility.
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