For 50 years, Prides around the world have been bringing throngs to the streets without fail. No threats, hate, or weather has stopped the annual deluge of rainbows…until now.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to a standstill, and even the most reliable recurring events, like the Olympics, have been postponed. Each city’s Pride celebration is responding differently, with some canceling until 2021, some postponing until late summer or fall, and some forging ahead.
What’s your city doing? New announcements are made every day and the list below is accurate as of April 29, 2020. While some cities have used the word “postponed” in their cancellations, we’ve written “canceled” if they have not announced plans for a 2020 Pride. Many Prides are working to create alternate online events but may not have announced them yet, so please click through to your city’s announcement to see the full latest plan.
These historic cancellations are a blow to community morale, but organizers of Prides not moving forward with 2020 events insist that, though sad, they must prioritize public safety.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh commented on the cancellation of his city’s Pride: “I know this was a very hard decision to make and I know it’s very hard news to hear, but it’s the right decision.” He continued: “As we fight the coronavirus pandemic, everyone’s safety and health is our top priority. To our LGBTQ community, we may not be able to celebrate [the] Boston Pride 50th Anniversary this summer, but once we are able, we’ll have the biggest and strongest Pride to date.”
Natalie Miller, 45, lives in Kansas City, MO and agrees with her local Pride’s decision to postpone to October 2020. “I think it’s the right idea. Our pride is held by the river and is especially packed. If there were even one person who was still carrying the virus, there would be another outbreak, and that’s the last thing anyone needs.”
As of late April, many Prides are still taking a “wait and see” approach since no one knows exactly what the world will look like in June. A common announcement at this point is that Pride organizers know they won’t be having their usual in-person events, but aren’t sure what they’ll do instead. Some hope for months-away in-person 2020 events, while others are resigned to online-only celebrations.
Yet some Prides are committed to going ahead, perhaps none more than Palermo Pride in Sicily, Italy, who said they will continue on unless the government stops them. In a March 30 statement titled “It is time to endure, not postpone,” organizers laid out their reasons for pressing ahead: “The historically central themes of Pride —namely visibility, pride, self-empowerment, peace with oneself and the world, and activism—are not separate from the role of health. Focusing on these themes means also focusing on the physical, mental, and social health—not only of our own community but of everyone. This is because the unit by which we measure health is not (and cannot be) solely “medical” but also must be societal. For that reason, in the absence of a legal system that determines when the ban on assemblies will be extended, we do not intend to cancel or reschedule Palermo Pride, as planned for June.”
For those communities where Pride is canceled, the disappointment ripples throughout the community. Organizers and revelers alike are heartbroken that they won’t have the social moment they look forward to all year, especially when isolation makes them crave it more. Anna Ellis, 22, in Oslo, Norway said she is disappointed on a personal level. “I am sad because I was going to be featured in the art gallery, but now it’s a digital catalogue and I think fewer people will see my work.” Businesses will not have sales at festivals, nonprofits will not have an outreach opportunity, youth and families will not have the chance to connect with each other, and performers will lose income and exposure. Every person in the LGBTQ community is affected.
Pride began as the celebration of the anniversary of the watershed Stonewall Rebellion on June 28, 1969. Brenda Howard, the bisexual “Mother of Pride,” was a leader in organizing New York City’s first remembrance in June 1970. This year’s celebrations would have marked the fiftieth anniversary of that first liberation march.
While Pride has become increasingly commercialized in recent decades with corporate involvement, some cities have multiple events to serve different groups. In New York City, there is an official Pride put on by Heritage of Pride that is full of colorful floats that cost a prohibitive amount of money to enter, and an alternative Queer Liberation March and Rally organized by the Reclaim Pride Coalition. Many cities have Black Prides separate from the general parades and festivals, as well as other identity-specific events like Trans Pride, Youth Pride, and Latinx Pride.
Capital Pride is taking an event-by-event approach with deciding whether D.C.’s nine events will either be postponed with new dates or outright canceled. Black Pride, for example, is canceled. “For the first time in 30 years, we will not gather in D.C. to celebrate our community during Memorial Day Weekend. This too shall pass. We will celebrate the 30th DC Black Pride in 2021, bigger and more celebratory than ever,” read an announcement about the event that had been meant to go on May 22-25.
Lee Perine is a lead organizer of Black in Space, a new virtual Black Pride event to livestream on May 21 through 25, 2020. “Now, more than ever, folks need ways to feel connected,” he told Tagg. “Black Pride has always been my favorite time of the year and I want to find ways to continue that energy, even if it’s virtual.” He shared that the programming is still being finalized but it will include “panels, TED Style talks, an astrology happy hour, and dance parties.”
InterPride, the international organization for the world’s hundreds of Prides to collaborate, is making arrangements for an unprecedented online Global Pride for June 27, 2020. According to their website, the event will include musical performances, speeches, and key messages from human rights activists. Hopefully, this live-streamed event will allow people around the world to feel connected to each other from home in the absence of each other’s physical presence. It is the first global virtual Pride in Pride’s fifty year history.
Sarah Herrick, 43, in Connecticut sums up what many are feeling with an important reminder: “It sucks. It really, really sucks. But it’s necessary. I want to be able to go to Pride next year and not be missing faces because we jumped the gun this year and people died as a result. We’ll get through this. We’re tough, we’re resilient, we know how to deal with adversity.”