'There's no one way to celebrate': How to mark Pride month, virtually and in-person

Although LGBTQ pride is celebrated year-round through media representation, music and advocacy, June marks Pride Month, a time for communities to celebrate and join forces.

Last year due to COVID-19, huge celebrations normally filled with music, conversations and bright colors were canceled, and online parties and events took over. Organizations found isolation and loneliness within the LGBTQ community increased when people were unable to celebrate with others.

Though Pride was upended last year, this year will be a mix of online conversations and physical embraces, showing that it is more important now than ever to cherish community.

Interesting:Pride on TV: How ‘Ellen,’ ‘Will & Grace,’ ‘Pose’ expanded LGBTQ representation

‘Express’ and ‘enrich’ yourself with Pride

For some individuals, this year may be their first Pride celebration since coming out during the pandemic.

Crisis and suicide prevention resource for LGBTQ youth The Trevor Project has heard from LGBTQ young people who came out during the pandemic, some being forced back into the closet and having a difficult time navigating their newfound identity.

Based on their work, the organization reported that LGBTQ youth already were physically isolated from welcoming communities or felt excluded from Pride in the past.

Carrie Davis, chief community officer, said many people are isolated from affirming communities, pushing this year’s Pride Month as an opportunity for self-care and self-exploration.

“Attend a virtual Pride parade, festival, or drag show. Express yourself through art,” Davis says. “Enrich yourself with LGBTQ literature, history, and culture. The key is that there’s no one way to celebrate Pride.”

'There's no one way to celebrate': How to mark Pride month, virtually and in-person

Davis advises LGBTQ people to think outside of parties and parades but instead celebrate Pride in ways that are authentic, unique and shared with people who show love and support.

Organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign will approach Pride by including virtual events featuring voices in the community on pressing issues and ways to advocate for change.

President Alphonso David said the goal of the videos is to offer joyful but educational experiences. “We hope that our offerings will bring our community together through joyful celebration and by organizing our activism to defeat threats to our community,” he says.

David encourages Pride newcomers to connect with the greater LGBTQ community through organization search guides or social media. He believes it’s important to stay involved even in a virtual space.

“Decide what is right for you, whether that be a virtual dance party, an affinity Pride or a discussion on the importance of centering trans and racial justice in our fight for liberation; this month will provide lots of different types of engagements,” David says.

Oooh:‘I’m excited to make Pride just last all year’: Celebrating in person and online across US

Is hybrid Pride here to stay?

Landon Shonuff-is Hall, a 35-year-old South Carolina resident, remembered his first Pride experience in Columbia as a booth operator for his company. He loved seeing everyone express their pride and queerness in different ways through clothing, makeup and more.

Hall could not participate in any virtual events last year, but as areas reopen, he thinks more events will be inperson and incorporate virtual aspects that worked well last year. Some successful activities Hall has seen included main locations for people to meet up with small groups, which he believes will continue to accommodate personal preferences.

“I plan on going to our upstate Pride even later this year when we have it and was hoping to find something not too far this month,” Hall said. “It’s great to see we have these events in all areas of the state.”

The Equality Institute in Chicago has seen the positive impact of Pride events on community engagement and activism during a time of social unrest.

Chief Executive Officer Bernadette Smith recalls her first Pride in Boston after her first kiss with a girl. “It was a few months after my mom’s reluctant acceptance and many years before I figured out how I wanted to show up in the world.”

'There's no one way to celebrate': How to mark Pride month, virtually and in-person

For a long time, most people she knew who were lesbian, gay and bisexual were cisgender, white and able-bodied. Smith did not know about the history of the movement and the legacy of its Black, brown and transgender leaders.

However, she found that Pride was more inclusive last year and opened many opportunities for people. She has worked with many companies throughout the country and sees a hybrid Pride model in the future.

“Since there were so many virtual Pride options last year, I think that we’re going to see more hybrid Pride celebrations in the future, where people who might not have previously attended a Pride parade because of social anxiety or other disabilities can feel comfortable, too,” Smith said.

Smith saw the importance of taking virtual Pride celebrations to the next level by expanding to games, advocacy and other forms of honoring the community. Some tips she gave:

  • A cross-section in types of events: Have activities that will be fun, whether drag queen bingo or trivia night. Then switch to more educational activities such as allyship panels and one-on-one workshop sessions.
  • Be mindful of diversity: Have programming for communities including people of color, people with disabilities and families. Traditional Pride parades have excluded these communities, who are often overlooked in LGBTQ education.
  • Do more with watch parties: Instead of the normal watch party, have small events around Pride month, including book clubs or movie gatherings.

Petruce Jean-Charles is a Government Watchdog Reporter for The Courier-Tribune. They are interested in what’s going on in the community and are open to tips on people, businesses and issues. Contact Petruce at pjeancharles@gannett.com and follow @PetruceKetsia on Twitter.

Important:What are the origins of Pride Month? And who should we thank for the LGBTQ celebration?

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