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Pride Month moves online

Pride Month moves online
© Greg Nash

Pride Month is moving online as social distancing rules force LGBTQ organizers to nix the outdoor parades and celebrations that typically draw large crowds during June in cities across the country.

New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are among those holding events online after postponing or canceling in-person gatherings.

“We all started to see in later March into April that it was not going to be the possibility of the kind of pride events, be they political events or marches or celebrations, that we usually have,” said Cathy Renna, communications director for the National LGBTQ Task Force.

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“When those official announcements came down from mayors and governors, et cetera, there was already a lot of thought about how we make sure that we still have a year with pride, because I think the idea of not celebrating pride was unacceptable,” Renna added.

June marks the 50th anniversary of foundational Pride celebrations in cities like New York and San Francisco. It's also the five-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

But in celebrating those historic events, most pride participants this year will be homebound. That means organizers have had to be creative.

New York festivities will include a two-hour broadcast on June 28 with performances from stars like Janelle Monáe and Billy Porter. Organizers have also announced an online Human Rights Conference focusing on “the needs of the community in 2020,” such as mental health and voting rights.

In Washington, a “Capital Pridemobile Rainbow Blast” is set to drive through the city on June 13 with DJs and drag performances.

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“I love the idea of a pride mobile with talent and speakers from the local community in the DC area going all over the city, not the parade route, but driving all over the city, and bringing people to their windows and to their front doors so they can get out there and wave their rainbow flag or their trans flag or their bi flag or bring their kids out on the lawn and be supportive,” Renna said.

D.C. organizers have also scheduled “Pride Talks” and other events that will be livestreamed.

Fred Lopez, executive director of San Francisco Pride, told The Hill that traditional gatherings will be replaced by 13 hours of online programming on the group’s website and include “performances both live and pre-recorded, drag, speeches from local LGBTQ elected officials and community leaders.”

In Los Angeles, organizers will hold the city's first-ever virtual Pride Parade in the form of a 90-minute special paying "tribute to the history of LA Pride" and the city's "role in the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement," according to a statement Friday. 

“Pride does not exist one weekend out of a month, or one month out of the year. It is a practice that should be practiced 365 days a year by individuals, by communities, by businesses, by families, and it’s something that we have to continue to strive to have in our lives,” LA Pride President Estevan Montemayor told The Hill.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is launching online resources for celebrating, like festive backgrounds for video calls on Zoom and instructions for creating face masks, feather boas and other celebratory gear.

“What we’re doing is trying to make sure people who are celebrating at home still have the resources that they need to make it feel like it’s pride,” said Elizabeth Bibi, senior advisor for communications at the Human Rights Campaign.

Pride Month festivities are being reimagined beyond the U.S. A Global Pride is in the works from international organizations InterPride and the European Pride Organisers Association. The event will virtually feature pride celebrations from around the world over a 24-hour period beginning June 27.

This year’s activities will also be infused with politics stemming from the coronavirus and action in the Supreme Court. Pride organizers have faced criticism in recent years from LGBTQ groups that say the annual commemorations have focused too much on forging corporate partnerships or throwing a party without addressing issues of concern to the community.

The Supreme Court could issue rulings in June on multiple cases that could decide whether gay and transgender people are protected under federal workplace discrimination laws. The decisions would determine whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on “sex,” would also cover gender identity and sexual orientation.

Some events this month will draw attention to inequality during the pandemic.

Bibi pointed to HRC research showing the coronavirus has disproportionately impacted LGBTQ people of color. A report by the group found that more LGBTQ people of color said they have become unemployed amid the pandemic than white LGBTQ people. The same applied to workers who have had hours reduced.

“We have to be sure that we continue those fights for our entire community, especially for our trans community and our gender non-conforming community,” Montemayor continued. “And so as people are thinking about what they don’t have, we still have so much, and we still have this community, and no one can ever cancel pride. That’s not possible.”