Last June, rainbows and cheering filled the streets of downtown Salt Lake City. They were there to celebrate the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the rebellion against anti-queer policing that Pride is meant to commemorate. Those in attendance will recall the feelings of elation as we celebrated our history and progress of LGBT rights. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah Pride Center announced that the annual Utah Pride Festival, normally held the first week of June, has been postponed to September. While we are hopeful that the in-person festival will still take place, the looming question which haunts our community is, “What will Pride mean this year?”
While Utah has been lucky enough to postpone our parade, there is a larger pattern of other cities around the world having to forego in-person events this year. According to the European Pride Organizers Association, there are currently 280 Prides globally which have been postponed or canceled in light of the pandemic. While public health and safety are a top priority, we have fought what feels like an uphill battle for our rights. Even in countries considered “progressive” or safe, LGBTQ rights has a way to go.
As we look forward, it is time to focus on the ideals of Pride beyond the parade. While live programming and events are postponed, our focus needs to shift to the initiatives which give back to our community. Each year the pride festivities generate funding to develop much-needed programming for some of the most marginalized factions of our community. The largest concern this year is that these groups may not raise the capital needed to sustain operations, and now we are scrambling to reimagine some of the largest in-person gatherings in the world.
While in-person pride events have played an important role in raising awareness for LGBTQ rights, like same-sex marriage, the spirit of gay pride can’t just be confined to big parades. Our biggest challenge at this time is the potential drop in visibility that canceling these in-person events could have on the LGBTQ movement overall. So what is the solution? We look to the internet. This year large Pride events, including World Pride, are seeking solutions that allow for “virtual” gatherings. We are seeing this shift locally as well. The Utah Pride Center has adapted much of the programming it offers to be implemented in virtual spaces. While a new format brings some change, the focus of the services remains the same.
So, what do we do for Pride this year?
This year we have the unique opportunity to change our views on Pride. While we may have been looking forward to the parties, this year we are in a unique situation where we get to give back. While we need to have some sort of celebration, it needs to be a celebration about getting to work and protecting people’s lives and the advances we have made as a community. Take this time to learn more about the resources which have shifted to online delivery and continue to financially support the organizations that fight for us.
While we may not have a party this year, our actions during this time will be the deciding factors on if we have something to celebrate in the future.