What The Pandemic Will Mean For Pride 2020 Hundreds of Pride events across the world have been cancelled – but organisers aren't letting the pandemic stop them fighting for LGBTQ+ equality.
LGBTQ+ / 26 Jun 2020

What The Pandemic Will Mean For Pride 2020

By Ella Braidwood, Freelance News Editor
Credit: Courtesy of Manchester Pride

Hundreds of Pride events across the world have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis – but organisers aren’t letting the pandemic stop them fighting for LGBTQ+ equality as they go virtual for 2020.

Pride marches have been held every year since the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising on 28 June 1969, a historic moment which many believe sparked the modern gay liberation movement in the US. In the UK, masses of LGBTQ+ people take to the streets each summer to celebrate who they are and protest against injustices their community faces.

But, as the world continues to grapple with Covid-19, Pride is set to look very, very different this year. Hundreds of parades have been cancelled or postponed, including in New York, Tokyo and London, due to restrictions on public gatherings.

Still, that doesn’t mean that Pride isn’t happening in 2020 – far from it. Instead, organisers have moved their plans online, keeping up the fight that is far from won. Same-sex relations are still illegal in around 70 countries, and in seven of these it is punishable by death – with Brunei legalising this measure just last year. The rights of transgender people are under threat internationally, with the Trump administration banning some trans people from serving in the US military, and Hungary stripping trans people of the right to legal gender recognition.

There are fears, too, that the Covid-19 crisis will increase inequality for LGBTQ+ people, already a community suffering disproportionately from mental health issues. One recent report, released by Kaleidoscope Trust, found that the pandemic is dealing a “devastating blow” to LGBTQ+ communities in the Commonwealth.

So, how are Pride organisers moving online? What are the advantages and drawbacks? And, what does the coronavirus pandemic mean for the future of Pride?

How can you hold Pride online?

Set up in early April, Global Pride was formed as a direct response to the coronavirus pandemic. Launched in collaboration with InterPride and the European Pride Organisers Association, Global Pride is gearing up for its 24-hour live video stream event on Saturday 27 June, which its communications director Steve Taylor says is “likely to be the world’s biggest Pride, online”. Starting at 6am in the UK (see infographic, left), Global Pride will comprise content from more than 500 Pride events worldwide, alongside speeches and performances from musicians, world leaders, and activists.

“It became apparent to us in March that the cancellation of hundreds of Prides was going to have a devastating impact on the LGBTI+ community not only in Europe, but around the world,” explains Taylor. “And so we pulled together a meeting of all the Pride networks globally, and Global Pride was born.”

An impressive line-up has been announced, featuring celebrities from actor and trans rights campaigner Laverne Cox to singers Adam Lambert, Kesha and LeAnn Rimes. A number of political figureheads will also give speeches, including Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, London mayor Sadiq Khan and US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Hosted by singer-songwriter Todrick Hall, organisers have said that the event will “amplify black voices”, having worked with founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. In a press release earlier this month, co-chair of the Global Pride organising committee Natalie Thompson said: “As a Black woman in the LGBTQIA+ community, I feel we must confront the systemic racism and violence facing my Black brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings, in the larger culture and within the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Watch Global Pride on 27 June here: www.globalpride2020.org/watch/

 

Credit: Global Pride
Lady Phyll. Credit: Kofi Paintsil/Gay Times

Black LGBTQ+ rights activists played a key role in bringing about the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City – a watershed moment for the modern gay rights movement. The anniversary of these riots, led by black and Latina American gender-non conforming activists, including Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, is the date for an online festival called Pride Inside co-hosted by UK Black Pride in collaboration with four other groups this year. These are: Amnesty International, LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall, transgender rights charity Gendered Intelligence, and ParaPride, which supports LGBTQ+ people with physical, sensory and mental impairments.

Lady Phyll, co-founder and executive director of UK Black Pride, which is for LGBTQ+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent, promises that the content for Pride Inside is “amazing”. So far, there are confirmed appearances from actor Layton Williams, comedian Rosie Jones, and Scissor Sisters singer Ana Matronic.

“We’ve got speakers, we’ve got panel discussions on trans POC [people of colour] in the context of the UK and also the US,” she says. “We have got discussions around the feminist movement and how we – as even UK Black Pride – are ensuring that we take an intersectional lens.” With it being the 15th anniversary of UK Black Pride, Lady Phyll, who is also executive director of Kaleidoscope Trust, hints at some surprise appearances, simply saying: “Watch this space.”

For more information, visit Pride Inside’s website: www.prideinside.uk

Online Pride: the advantages

As Global Pride’s Taylor says, there are “absolutely” advantages of holding Pride online, even if it is “difficult” to recreate the traditional parade element. “We can reach people who couldn’t go to a Pride event – people who are not out, living far from a city, or even in a country where [being] LGBTI+ is criminalised,” he explains.

At Bi Pride UK, which supports anyone who is attracted to more than one gender such as bisexual, pansexual, biromantic and panromantic people, organisers are optimistic about moving online for 2020, following the charity’s first event in London last year. Abigail Kay, chair of Bi Pride UK, says that the charity has a “responsibility to provide spaces for bi people living across the UK” – and the internet has meant that it is able to do this. Last weekend, Bi Pride UK held a virtual event – Bi-Fi Festival – allowing people across the UK and all over world to join in, which Kay says “wouldn’t have been possible with a physical event”.

 

For Kay, the all-day Bi-Fi festival was an opportunity to bring the bi community together at “a time when bi people are feeling extremely alone and isolated”. Research has suggested that bi people experience higher rates of mental health problems than their gay and lesbian peers; a 2018 report by Stonewall found that 50% of bi women and 43% of bi men had felt that life was not worth living in the past year, compared to 37% and 32% of lesbians and gay men respectively.

DJ Miller Black performing at Bi Pride's Bi-Fi Festival

DJ Miller Black performing at Bi Pride UK’s Bi-Fi Festival. Credit: Courtesy of Bi Pride UK

During the Covid-19, reports of domestic violence have surged. This is of great concern to Kay, who notes that bi people, especially bi women, are “at increased risk of intimate partner violence due to the harmful prejudices and stereotypes that many, both straight and gay, hold about bi people”. One 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study  showed that more than 60% of bi women had faced violence from their partners, significantly higher than any other sexual minority. Bi people also face stigma from the families they are living with during the Covid-19 crisis. In May, the LGBT Foundation reported a 450% increase in calls about biphobia, nearly three times the combined number it received for transphobia and homophobia.

Kay says there is a “huge benefit in terms of accessibility”, too, when it comes to hosting an online Pride, with  “so many people” struggling to get to physical Pride events “due a range of barriers,” including physical impairments, mental health issues, financial restrictions, and sensory processing challenges.

Donatien von Rohland, secretary of Perthshire Pride, which started up in 2018, is also excited about this year, despite having to cancel its August event. After getting from the Aviva Community Fund and the Equality Network, Perthshire Pride is set to host a series of virtual events over the summer, including a Pride quiz on 28 June. “We have been contacted by LGBT+ community members who feel bullied by their family,” explains Rohland. “The lockdown has exacerbated their struggle. This is why we believe that it is more important than ever to support and inspire our community.”

The secretary adds that Perthshire Pride, whose inaugural parade was led by Sir Ian McKellen last year (see image, left), is keen to make the most of its online programme by ensuring that locals have access to the internet. “We are looking at options to increase access to IT equipment within our community, as we know that holding online event is great to bring people together, but access is limited to people who already have the equipment and are confident using technology,” adds Rohland.

Sir Ian McKellen, who led Perthshire Pride's inaugural parade last year. Credit: Courtesy of Perthshire Pride
Trans Pride NI last year. Credit: Courtesy of Trans Pride NI

The downside to having Pride online: strapped for cash and resources

Michael Steven is finance director of Trans Pride NI, which held the first transgender pride parade on the island of Ireland in 2018. For Steven, having a Pride event specifically for transgender and non-binary people is important because members of this community can feel “quite isolated, so Prides that are in person are a great opportunity to meet new people”.

Previous studies have shown that transgender and non-binary people face high rates of discrimination, including in healthcare settings, with a disproportionate number experiencing mental health problems when compared with the rest of the population. A 2015 report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that more than six in ten trans people (62%) had experienced discrimination within gender identity clinics, while a 2018 Stonewall study found that nearly half (46%) of transgender people had thought about taking their own life in the previous year, compared with 31% of non-trans lesbian, gay and bisexual people. It is also feared the government will abandon proposals to make it easier for trans people to have their gender legally recognised by reforming the Gender Recognition Act.

But, as a small volunteer-run group, Trans Pride NI is unable organise any online events to try and plug the gap left by the cancellation of its planned event this year. “Trans Pride NI is entirely run by volunteers – we do not currently have the resources to hold online events,” explains Steven. “We are, however, still trying to support the trans community in Northern Ireland, by continuing to post useful news and links to support, for the trans community in Northern Ireland, on social media, during this difficult time.”

At Manchester Pride, chief executive Mark Fletcher acknowledges that is is hard to recreate the physicality of the charity’s four-day annual festival, usually held across the August Bank Holiday weekend, which has been cancelled because of Covid-19. “The atmosphere is something you can’t recreate with an online event. It brings Manchester alive and it will be sadly missed this year.” However, Fletcher says that Manchester Pride has an internet-driven programme in the pipeline, possibly alongside some socially-distanced gatherings, which he is hopeful about. “It is even more important to us now than ever to support up and coming local and national talent, and shine a light on the brilliant achievements of local artists, performers, writers and more,” he adds.

The atmosphere is something you can’t recreate with an online event. It brings Manchester alive and it will be sadly missed this year.

Credit: Courtesy of Manchester Pride

The atmosphere is something you can’t recreate with an online event. It brings Manchester alive and it will be sadly missed this year.

Will any 2020 Pride events go ahead as planned?

An image of Cumbria Pride's parade last year

Cumbria Pride’s parade last year. Credit: Lynne Braidwood

While most Pride events worldwide have been cancelled or postponed, a few are still hoping to go ahead as planned. These include LGBTQ+ Muslim Pride event ImaanFest, postponed until December, and  Cumbria Pride in north-west England, which is set to take place on 26 September. “Our committee are holding regular online meetings to discuss and review the government advice that is coming out, and obviously we are all mindful of safety,” say chair Jane-ann Clark and treasurer Karyn Wood. “The event will only go ahead if safe to do so, but right now like everyone else, we just do not know how things will progress. We are all keeping our fingers crossed.”

The two organisers, however, acknowledge that “within our LGBT+ community we also have members with physical and mental disabilities,” and so any event it holds this year is expected to include online elements, making it accessible to those who can’t physically attend. Last year, Cumbria Pride was live-streamed on its Facebook page.

Clark and Wood add that it has been  “upsetting”to see the cancellation of smaller Prides in Cumbria, a largely rural county, including in the towns of Silloth and Whitehaven, with LGBTQ+ people living in the countryside less likely to have access to support services. In 2018, Stonewall found that half of LGBTQ+ people living in rural areas had never attended LGBTQ+ specific events or venues, compared with 32% living in urban areas,  and 2015 research by the University of Leicester found that the reporting of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes in the countryside is “especially low”.

A huge impact of the pandemic on us as a charity has been a significant and rapid reduction in funding.

Credit: Courtesy of Bi Pride UK

A huge impact of the pandemic on us as a charity has been a significant and rapid reduction in funding.

Credit: Courtesy of Manchester Pride

What next for Pride – and the LGBTQ+ scene?

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact on Pride events worldwide. For Global Pride’s Steve Taylor, his “personal fear” is that the coronavirus pandemic will “will exacerbate the decline of the ‘scene’” given that “LGBTI+ venues were already struggling in many cities”. He adds: “Civil society organisations are of course also really struggling, and in countries where government is not supportive of such organisations – or, worse, actively working against them, the impact is likely to be very severe.”

There are also safety concerns as the Covid-19 pandemic may be here for some time. Steven adds that Covid019 means organisers at Trans Pride NI will need to consider “attendees’ health and safety in relation to coronavirus and how best to minimise the spread of coronavirus at Pride events”. He says that people with disabilities made up more than half of Trans Pride’s attendees last year, so “considering how to stop the spread of coronavirus to the most vulnerable in our society will be an important priority for Trans Pride NI”.

There are serious financial concerns, too, over whether some Pride organisers will be able to stay afloat into next year due to the impact of Covid-19. At Bi Pride UK, Kay says that the charity has suffered “a predicted loss of 80%” of its income this year, which will “inevitably have an impact beyond 2020”. As a volunteer-run charity, Kay says Bi Pride UK has been unable to qualify for any government grants or loans. “A huge impact of the pandemic on us as a charity has been a significant and rapid reduction in funding,” they add. Likewise, at Manchester Pride, Fletcher says that the “biggest impact is financial”. He adds: “The funds we raise are ploughed into the community and the support we provide, support which is needed even more, yet we have less opportunities to generate the cash.”

Still, there is optimism. Kay says Bi Pride UK has “learned so much” from its virtual offering that it is now working to make it a regular fixture in its calendar. Meanwhile, Rohland says that Perthshire Pride is able to roll over its funding to 2021, giving organisers a “head-start position” to make next year’s event “bigger and better”. He stresses that LGBTQ+ people who are feeling alone should consider reaching out for support within the community. “If I could add one last thing, I would like to remind everyone reading this that you are not alone, and there are people out there waiting to get to know you,” he says.

Image Credits
Global Pride infographic: Courtesy of Global Pride
Photo of Ian McKellen: Courtesy of Perthshire Pride 

 

 

You can find and support all the Prides in this feature below:

Global Pride
Global Pride

A recently-formed online Pride event, featuring content from more than 500 Pride organisers worldwide.

Find out more
UK Black Pride
UK Black Pride

A Pride event for LGBTQ+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent.

Find out more
ParaPride
ParaPride

A Pride community for LGBTQ+ people with physical, sensory and mental impairments.

Find out more
Bi Pride UK
Bi Pride UK

A Pride community for people who are attracted to more than one gender.

Find out more
Perthshire Pride
Perthshire Pride

The main Pride event for people living in Perthshire, Scotland.

Find out more
Manchester Pride
Manchester Pride

A major Pride event in Manchester.

Find out more
Trans Pride NI
Trans Pride NI

Northern Ireland's Pride for transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people.

ImaanFest
ImaanFest

A Pride festival for LGBTQ+ Muslims.

Cumbria Pride
Cumbria Pride

A county-wide Pride event for people living in Cumbria.