Will I Find Pride in 2020?
Health restrictions and violence against Black people has made it harder than ever to celebrate Pride this year
If you let many Black queer folks tell it, Pride isn’t that big of a deal because we’re queer 24/7, all year long.
Don’t believe the hype.
The stance makes sense. From the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest to the South, Queer spaces tend to be majority White, if they exist at all. And the gatekeepers of these spaces rarely make an effort to welcome queer folks of color anyway, including during Pride month. Despite that, Black and Brown gays have always managed to make our own spaces whether it be small gatherings, picnics, or meager club outings where friends invite their friends to create as solid of a pack as possible when entering a place that may not be so familiar, all in the name of a good time.
With Covid-19 shuttering what we once knew as parties, brunch, and parades, this Pride month has looked a lot different for many. Black queers who’d usually be spending this time most intimately with friends and loved ones, like myself, are restricted to virtual events at a time when physically being in community with your people is what matters and marks this time of year most. The restrictions placed on our ability to express and celebrate ourselves in a world that already excludes us and violates us makes it harder than ever to feel pride in our queerness or humanity.
I’ve built a community that gives me a sense of safety and stability in an ever-changing world. Now, it feels like the virus has taken that all away.
Owning my queerness had been a laborious task up until I came out at 19 years old. I routinely told myself: Keep it quiet. What will your friends think? What will your family think? I didn’t want to face the numerous ways my relationships with the people I loved could change. I didn’t want to face what claiming my bi-/pansexuality would mean for me in redefining myself. If I’d like who that queer person was and if she was worth risking what I thought I already knew about how I, as a Black woman, was perceived in this world.
When I came out, I was a student at Ohio State University, in midsize college town Columbus, Ohio, five hours away from my native Chicago. My first experiences at OSU were with a White girl who did not want a Black girl as a roommate (and who clowned me on Twitter for it with our floor mates), and was with a White professor who made terrible remarks about the pronunciation of my name in class. A professor who also played in my hair, and reminded me that she was Jewish — so she could relate — when I confronted her. How could I possibly come out there, of all places?
I don’t know how, but I did it. And I’m better for it. The only place that felt like home in that town was a regular underground party named Blvck Ice. The party gathered a mixed crowd, and it was the only place I regularly met a substantial amount of queer Black and Brown people, free to have a good time without judgment or limitations of expression. I could sway, stand, dance, kiss, hold, and be left alone. Even when the city’s Pride parade was insufferably White, I could go to Blvck Ice and have a good time.
Fast forward to moving back home to Chicago, where Pride celebrations can also be very White, I at least found options. Here, I’m not limited to one or two QPOC events. I have choices. I’ve met new friends, I’ve learned new things about myself from new people, and I’ve built a community that gives me a sense of safety and stability in an ever-changing world. Until Covid-19 hit. Now, it feels like the virus has taken that all away.
I can’t quite figure out how I find joy when such a large part of my joy comes from spending time with my queer community, especially in June.
The health of human beings is far more important than brunch and parades, still, I can’t quite figure out how I find joy when such a large part of my joy comes from spending time with my queer community, especially in June. These are the people with whom I want to reflect on the origins of Pride. These are the people I want to lean on as I continue to mourn Black victims of police brutality, like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. These are the people I want to lean on when I’m frustrated and mourning the Black trans women who continue to be killed by cisgender men in our own community, like Riah Milton, Dominique Rem’mie Fells, and countless others.
Instead, I am relegated to my apartment, to scream into my pillow, call a friend, or use the day to cry as I need to. Because as much as cities “open up,” I still don’t trust small, socially distanced gatherings knowing how the virus is impacting Black people at significantly higher rates than its impacting White communities.
As I try as best I can to find the little joys in every day, to find the little joys in this new reality, I return to the same question again and again: What is Pride month without community? June just doesn’t feel like the June I remember and need it to be — maybe it’ll feel more like June in October? Who knows. The federal government sure doesn’t. It’s difficult to find Pride in this country right now. That has arguably always been a task for Black folks. It’s hard to be fully proud of our own communities that can often be so, so cruel to those living on the margins of the margins. Pride and joy feel like they’re floating in some far off planet that’s unreachable to me right now. I hope to find them again, and I hope to find them soon.