image showing San Francisco City Hall, lit in rainbow colors with fireworks in sky above

Celebrating Pride in Spite of the Pandemic

By Ed Kimble

Who doesn’t remember their first gay pride parade? Mine was the San Francisco Pride Parade in June 1981. I was a bougie 28-year-old with just one foot out of the closet – but five years later I was out and proud, flashing my pecs to thousands of cheering onlookers as I led the Mobilization Against AIDS contingent down Market Street to San Francisco City Hall. My pecs didn’t last, but my love of Pride celebrations did, and I’ve attended, marched, or worked booths at Pride parades and festivals almost every year since.

Sadly, because of COVID-19, this June will be very different. More than 220 pride events around the world have been canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Phoenix Pride (postponed from April 4 to November 7), Mojave Valley Pride Bullhead City (June 6, canceled), Bisbee Pride (June 20, canceled), and Flagstaff Pride (June 20, canceled). Tucson’s Pride in the Desert, which usually occurs in late September, has not yet announced a date.

SO what will Pride mean this year?

Pride goes virtual for its 50th anniversary. New York and Los Angeles will broadcast their pride celebrations live on ABC network affiliates, other cities will stream their pride events on the internet, and hundreds more will be participating in GLOBAL PRIDE 2020, a 24-hour online pride festival that will start at 7am MST (aka Arizona Time) on June 27, the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Inn Riots, a historic turning point in the gay rights movement.

The very first pride events were “gay liberation” parades in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in 1970 to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots. Back then, the word “gay” covered anyone who wasn’t heterosexual or cisgender, while today’s inclusive term “queer” was considered hate speech. LGB replaced “gay” in the 1980s, just as the word “pride” replaced “liberation” in the names of pride celebration. (The history of the ever-expanding initialism for our community is worth learning.)

This year, each of the first Pride cities has found a way to keep Pride alive.

New York Pride is broadcasting its digital celebration live at 3pm MST, June 28 on ABC Live and the local New York ABC affiliate. The star-studded event features Schitt’s Creek star Dan Levy as one of four grand marshals along with performances by Janelle Monáe and Billy Porter. New York Pride is usually the largest pride event in the world drawing more than 4 million to its parade and affiliated events.

The LA Pride 50th Anniversary Celebration will broadcast live on ABC7 at 7:30pm PDT/MST on June 13 with original co-founder Rev. Troy Perry as a grand marshal. In 1968, Rev. Perry, now 79, founded Metropolitan Community Church as a separate LGBTQI+ affirming Christian denomination; today MCC has 222 congregations in 37 countries, including Water of Life MCC here in Tucson.

San Francisco Pride is participating in Global Pride 2020, but will broadcast its own full-blown celebration on its website 1-9pm PDT/MST June 27 and 2-7 p.m. PDT/MST June 28. The lineup and additional San Francisco Pride events are listed in PinkPlayMags.

In addition, The GLBT History Museum of San Francisco has curated an extensive online exhibition titled “50 Years of Pride”, and on June 15 will mount a second online exhibition titled Labor of Love: The Birth of San Francisco Pride 1970-1980.

The Smithsonian Institute looks at the history of Pride in its Project Pride: Virtual Concert and Time Capsule on YouTube. Hosted by NPR’s Ari Shapiro, the show taped live May 31 and features the Indigo Girls and Rufus Wainwright. No word on how long the show will be available on YouTube but the web page linked above is rich with dozens of Pride buttons, photos, postcards, and other objects from the Smithsonian’s collection.

Chicago postponed its Pride Parade until September 5-6, but a Chicago Pride Fest will stream digitally on Twitch at 5pm MST on June 20-21.

The June 27 worldwide 24-hour online Global Pride 2020, was organized by Interpride and European Pride Organisers Association in conjunction with national and local pride organizations around the world. More than 350 pride organizations plan to participate digitally, including in Tel Aviv, Sydney, and Rio de Janeiro. In addition, Global Pride 2020 boasts music celebrities like Olivia Newton John, Dixie Chicks, Thelma Houston, and Steve Grand along with world leaders, including the president of Costa Rica, which just last week legalized same-sex marriage.

More cities that will produce their own virtual pride celebrations in June include:

Washington DC kicks off online June 1, includes a “pridemobile” driving through the nation’s capital broadcasting storefront pride display, and peaks with Pride in the City, a Facebook and YouTube series with local drag performers and dancers June 14.

Boston celebrates with events starting June 1 and ending with a virtual pride festival and concert on June 13.

Philadelphia plans an online Philly Pride celebration June 14.

Denver’s Center on Colfax will celebrate Virtual Pride the weekend of June 20-21.

San Antonio celebrates with Pride Bigger Than Texas on June 27.

San Diego plans virtual pride events starting June 1 that culminate in an online festival in July 18.