Coping with the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging for everyone, but the outbreak coinciding with LGBTQ+ Pride season has hit queer folks extra hard. As a queer person, all hopes of campy, delicious drag brunches with your crew or pressing up against barricades to watch glittery floats go by were dashed. Instead, Pride 2020 events went virtual. Once more, social media became an LGBTQ+ refuge, and
the pandemic taught queer people to celebrate Pride in fresh and enlightening ways.
Pride celebrates resistance to the oppression of heteronormativity and cis-normativity," Courtney Watson, a licensed therapist whose practice focuses on queer and trans people of color, previously told Elite Daily. "At its best, it's a safe place to be celebrated as an individual, for an aspect of one's identity that can experience profound oppression and trauma." Even though marches and other large, festive gatherings weren't an option this year, the following LGBTQ+ folks still found ways to celebrate Pride in its truest sense: by congratulating themselves for their continual resistance to cisgender and heterosexual norms, working on healing from past traumas, and championing their own queer expression.
Here's what the pandemic taught seven queer women and non-binary people about Pride.
There's No Time For Queer Guilt Or Shame
Westend61/Westend61/Getty Images [The pandemic] taught me that self-love regarding queerness goes beyond a public celebration. Experiencing this quarantine in solitude has had me facing how I minimize myself based on all this internalized homophobia. It’s made me realize that my mental health is inextricably tied to my authenticity — and the ways I shape-shift based on who I’m around keep me feeling low. I feel more than ever that the time to be authentic and give yourself full permission and acceptance to be who you are is now. There’s just no more time to waste on fear or insecurity or guilt or shame. You need all of you — the world needs all of you.
Melissa, 24 I think the pandemic has really taught me that it’s OK that I don’t like crowds, and self-care is both a form of celebration and rebellion against the heteronormative patriarchy. It’s also driven home that I do not have to earn self-care, but it’s part of thriving as a queer woman.
Natalie, 24 I actually didn’t attend a Pride parade last year because of its corporate ties, but for some reason, this year, I felt sad because I can’t physically hug my queer friends. Instead, I’ve been celebrating by watching queer movies, tuning into online Pride events, and just acknowledging that my existence as a non-binary human is enough to celebrate! I feel like I didn’t do anything too fun, but being alive as a queer, Indigenous person is enough for me to be grateful. I think the Pride events are always fun because you get to see and drink with pals in celebration and dance, but now it feels like you can just be gay in peace. It’s a 50/50 for me. I like the peace that the pandemic has forced us into, but I do miss the loud parades just for the sense of community.
Taylor*, 22 The pandemic — but specifically quarantine and quarantining with my parter — helped me understand that my identity doesn’t have to be rigid. Queerness itself is meant to let us freely express who we are, no matter what that looks or feels like. When I came out, I stepped out of one box, heterosexuality, and into another label. And while I was proud of that label, I feel so much better to allow myself space and fluidity, because we’re all ever-changing anyway.
Take Your Time To Get Comfortable
We Are/DigitalVision/Getty Images Basically, I’ve known myself to be queer for a while now but I’ve only been open about it in closed spaces— specifically spaces I know are closed off from my family. I’m not scared of them saying anything bad per se, but I just don’t feel comfortable applying a specific label other than “queer” and I know they won’t understand the fluidity of that word. This year was supposed to be my first real Pride celebration year and it was supposed to be extra special since, now that I live in L.A., I wanted to be able to post about it everywhere. I knew this would mean putting a label on myself and officially coming out to my family because they would see the posts. That plan obviously came to a stop due to COVID-19. I’m beyond grateful to have had this realization, because I feel like I’m becoming more comfortable with myself and I’m enjoying keeping my coming out slow and at my own pace. I’m also being more open and honest with myself about things that might help me feel more comfortable with my gender expression and body dysmorphia, which is super exciting!
Queer Happiness *Is* The Celebration
I think it's made me realize that even just being happy in my sexuality is a celebration in and of itself. Allowing myself to express my sexuality as ostentatiously as I want through clothes, hairstyle, or music. Allowing myself to have the fantasies that I should be allowed to have without judgement, and granting a safe space for my other queer friends is one of the best ways to celebrate.
Make Your Own Queer Space
David Levingstone/DigitalVision/Getty Images As a young person, I have been out since the age of 14, but because there are zero queer spaces available to under-18s, I haven't had many experiences of being in queer spaces. I have been to Black Pride for the last two years and have visited one lesbian club this year, finding myself staring wide eyed and open mouthed at the variety of (very attractive) femmes and (extremely attractive) studs. Not only was I surrounded by queer women, but women of color, which was entirely new. 2020 was planned out as 'my year' to go on a road trip to as many UK Pride events and lesbian clubs as possible, although lockdown has unfortunately dampened these plans. I can imagine that for people that have only just come out of the closet, being forced to celebrate Pride at home must feel like being shoved right back into that closet. I was determined not to experience the same feelings. Covered head-to-toe in rainbow apparel, I made my bedroom my 'gay space' and blasted cheesy tunes from my laptop, vogueing and twerking in front of my mirror whilst chugging cider. Pride is something that is within you and doesn't require the presence of any particular scenery or other people to enjoy. Although my plans were cancelled, I was still able to enjoy this year's Pride in my own unique way and lockdown has given me more time to plan out how I spend next year so that I can enjoy every second. In the last few days, I've found new spaces through Instagram that I wouldn't have had access to before, and being away from other people in lockdown has made me appreciate the opportunities available to me as someone aged over 18 who has access to queer spaces.
Let what these women and non-binary people had to say about how the pandemic actually fostered introspective, nurturing, safe spaces, remind you that Pride can be an empowering and unshakeable force — no matter the circumstances, and no matter what form your celebration takes.
*Name has been changed. Experts: Courtney Watson, LMFT