June is Gay Pride Month: How it’s Happening During COVID-19

Gay Pride has come a long way since June of 1970, when the first Gay Pride Parade was held. That year, to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a small group of gay and lesbian activists got a permit to parade along a short route, from the corner of Sixth Avenue and Waverly Place to the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, where the response to police raids on gay nightclubs had galvanized support for gay rights the previous June.

That first parade succeeded: thousands showed up, marching and chanting, to show their support for the emergent gay rights movement. As that movement gained momentum and visibility, Gay Pride kept pace, growing from small parades scattered across the US to a global event that lasts throughout the month of June. Last year’s celebration drew a record crowd of around 150,000 participants in Manhattan alone, and featured performances by Lady Gaga, Madonna, and others.

Gay Pride Month During the Coronavirus Pandemic

This year, however, due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Mayor Bill DeBlasio has announced that all NYC Pride events will be cancelled. Other major US cities have followed suit. And according to the European Pride Members Association, around 400 Pride events have been cancelled globally.

The precautions make sense. With person-to-person contact identified as the primary mode of coronavirus transmission, it’s clear that lockdown and social distancing measures slow the spread. Until a safe vaccine is readily available, life – particularly in densely-populated urban areas — will not resume as normal.

But, for LGBTQ-identifying people, Pride is more than just a parade. It provides a safe space for self-expression, and it’s also an annual boon to LGBTQ-owned small businesses. Community organizations benefit too, by raising both money and awareness for the work they do – from sheltering LGBTQ teens, to counseling, to legal advocacy and pro-bono legal services, and more. And, with lavish costumes, drag shows, dance performances, and elaborate floats, Pride parades and events offer like-minded individuals the chance to meet, blow off steam, bond, and just have fun.

So the question is, with COVID-19 putting a damper on Pride events, what’s happening instead? Read on for some answers and options from around the country and the world.

A 24-Hour Global Rolling Pride Event

On June 27 – the actual anniversary of the Stonewall Riots – the European Pride Organizers Association (EPOA) and InterPride, two international Pride coalitions, have joined forces to announce a worldwide rolling broadcast event. Much like global New Year’s Eve countdowns in recent years, this event will follow Pride around the world, devoting a 15-minute time slot to communities around the world as they celebrate a socially distant Pride in lockdown. Indeed, in some places, where laws still prohibit or punish homosexuality, this may provide a unique opportunity to celebrate with a global community for the first time.

Fundraisers for LGBTQ Charities

If contributing to advocacy organizations and charities is part of Pride Month for you, there are many options. Heritage of Pride – the organization that runs NYC Pride events – announced the cancellation of all in-person events. However, it also announced a renewed focus on Pride Gives Back, which gives out grants between $500 and $3500 to LGBTQ-friendly and LGBTQ-affirming organizations.

And San Francisco Pride’s Golf Tournament supporting LGBTQ charities will proceed as planned, with proper social distancing measures in place. You can try searching online, or call your local organizations to find more options.

Virtual Celebrations

Though San Francisco Pride is cancelled, the organizers have announced a virtual pride celebration that will take place June 27-28. The event will feature live and pre-recorded performances, speeches, DJ sets, and other rallies and entertainment.

Other cities, including Philadelphia, New Orleans, Baltimore, Boston, Providence, and Washington, DC have followed this model, urging people to avoid large in-person gatherings and enjoy some officially sponsored version of the Pride celebration in a virtual format.

Small Gatherings and Drive-By Parties

While travel within the US is not restricted, and some states have lifted stay-at-home orders, the CDC still advises caution. Many who have been quarantining in place with family groups, or who have created a quarantine bubble, may decide to celebrate Pride with a small group. During quarantine, the phenomenon of the drive-by party has emerged for graduations and birthdays. Some may elect to adopt this model for Pride. Pride supporters can decorate cars, play appropriate music, and fly flags and banners in the spirit of Gay Pride Month.

If you gather with friends at home, finding the right entertainment may be easier than you think. In addition to the global, virtual events listed above, many well-known performers are hosting online drag shows or Facebook live events and on Instagram live – where many well-known DJs regularly host live sets – a new color marker and hashtag has been introduced for Pride Month, so you can tag your stories and find live events for Pride.

This year, Pride Month is one of a growing number of beloved summer events that have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. But with a little planning, care, and ingenuity, you can make the most out of summer 2020.