Over 120 Pride events around the world have been canceled or postponed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Although this news is devastating, LGBTQ leaders are finding new ways of creating community in the Digital Age that may result in the most inclusive Pride celebration the world has ever seen.
On April 1, InterPride and the European Pride Organisers Association announced they’re working with international LGBTQ organizations to present Global Pride 2020, a live-streamed festival scheduled for Saturday, June 27. This means the event will be accessible regardless of disability, location, or socioeconomic status. Anyone with an internet connection will be able to participate. For many Pride events around the world, this level of accessibility will be a first.
Although the queer community prides itself on radical inclusivity, we don’t always practice what we preach. Last year, NYC’s World Pride events attracted nearly five million revelers, and the parade lasted well into the night with clamoring crowds melting onto the hot city asphalt for hours on end.
For individuals with mobile, visual, or auditory impairments, the streets were barely navigable. For the neurologically atypical, the city’s overwhelming stimuli left much to be desired.
These problems aren’t anything new for the world’s biggest Pride celebrations. Event organizers often forget to think about LGBTQ individuals with intersectional identities when creating community spaces. Entrances might not be wheelchair accessible, rallies may forgo an ASL interpreter, and video presentations might not offer closed captioning. There is rarely enough thought given to how sensory stimuli in large crowds affect people who are neurologically atypical, and there are seldom spaces created to help them feel safe while celebrating.
Last year, while attending a Pride rally at Manhattan’s Delacorte Theater, I watched as Ryan Haddad, a gay actor who uses a walker, realized there was no ramp for him to access the stage. He was one of the event’s speakers. In June of 2018, queer NYC resident Lynn Zelvin, who is blind and uses a guide dog, was refused entry at the Stonewall Inn, the epicenter of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. This lack of thoughtful inclusion can leave queer people with physical or developmental disabilities feeling invisible.
A live-streamed event will amend many of these problems by creating a level playing field for people of all abilities. There’s no place more accessible than the homes in which we live. It will also give people without the option of celebrating Pride in their towns a chance to participate. While some queens may sashay down their Main Street waving a rainbow flag with impunity, others barely dream about coming out of the closet. It’s easy to forget in liberal city centers that same-sex sexual activity is still considered a crime in more than 70 countries around the world. By creating a visible international platform, Global Pride will provide virtual queer spaces in areas that might otherwise have none.
These fixes are mere bandaids for bigger problems, however, and queer leaders shouldn’t forget the lessons we’re learning as a result of the pandemic. Making Pride inclusive takes consideration, communication, and creativity. Live-streaming Pride is only one of the many ways we can build accessible community events.
Once this pandemic passes, which it will, let’s hope we remember this year as a turning point. We all know the pain of isolation as a result of the coronavirus. Let’s not forget these valuable lessons once we head back out into the world.
In a statement about this year’s digital Pride, InterPride co-president J. Andrew Baker said, “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.”
When we’re free to celebrate shoulder-to-shoulder on our streets again, remember how important connection is for everyone, and how easy it is to connect when we use our resources mindfully. Global Pride 2020 has the potential to be the best-attended and easily accessible queer event in history. If we use this year as an opportunity to grow, imagine what Pride will look like in 2021.