While the jubilant crowds and large gatherings were missing from this year’s Pride celebrations, the rainbows and glitter have moved to digital spaces, private parties or socially distant celebrations.
The popular Twin Cities Pride weekend was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and other events like drag brunches or parties were called off or held at reduced capacity. For some younger lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks, the lost Pride Month events meant fewer opportunities to gather and make connections.
During a typical year, Samuel Doten, chair of the Stonewall DFL community caucus, would have participated in the big Pride parade. Instead, Doten hosted a few friends in his back parking lot.
“Most years, I would have a gathering of maybe a dozen people,” Doten said.
The cancellation of so many events has left some in the LGBT community feeling particularly isolated, said Doten, 26, who works at Reclaim in St. Paul, an organization that provides mental health care to LGBT youth.
“Social distancing in general, and social isolation, falls so much harder on those who rely on community support, especially queer and trans youth,” Doten said. “Pride is a huge opportunity to come together in community, to meet other people and just to be comfortable.”
With the lost celebrations, an early end to the school year and a very strange summer ahead, young people are bound to be feeling the impact, Doten said,
This year would have marked Northeastern University student Ro Van Sloun’s second Pride celebration since coming out. Last year, the 19-year-old from Minneapolis was able to march in the parade as a part of the Twin Cities Planned Parenthood teen council.
“There’s just so much validation,” Van Sloun said. “It’s one thing to be spending time with your friends who are all queer and supportive but it’s another thing to have absolute strangers applauding and cheering for you.”
Leaving college, where many LGBT people can freely exist, and abruptly returning home due to the pandemic has been particularly difficult, Van Sloun said.
“To have parents that might not understand your identity or might not support it even, and having no one else to interact with besides people who don’t use your name or don’t use your pronouns ... it can be damaging,” Van Sloun said.
Former Minnesota state Rep. Erin Maye Quade, the first LGBT candidate to be endorsed for lieutenant governor by a major state party in Minnesota, has heard similar concerns from youth in her work with advocacy groups OutFront Minnesota and Gender Justice. Maye Quade said she recently spoke with a middle schooler in rural Minnesota who is too young to get involved in many events.
“He’s 12, he can’t drive to Pride, he can’t show up for George Floyd,” she said. “There is that isolation that happens, especially for younger folks who live outside the cities or are immunocompromised.”
Maye Quade noted that after the police killing of Floyd last month in Minneapolis there has been a particular focus on uplifting LGBT black and brown people during this Pride Month.
“Especially this year, people are thinking about our history,” she said. “The first Pride was not a parade, it was a riot. It was a riot specifically to fight against police violence.”
In recent years, many in the LGBT community have criticized Pride for being too corporate. With the cancellation of Twin Cities Pride, some saw this year’s Taking Back Pride march, held on Sunday, as a return to its roots.
“For many people this Pride has been radicalizing, because they’ve been reminded that it’s not just rainbows and butterflies and having fun at a festival,” Doten said.
St. Paul rock band timisarocker celebrated Pride with all their typical costumes and flair — virtually. Fronted by lead singer Tim Dooley, a 26-year-old black gay artist, the band put together a “Live from Quarantine” show on Facebook to commemorate Pride 2020.
Though he and the band have been unable to gather, they wanted to create an experience that was as close to live as possible.
“We wanted to release it and have people celebrate Pride with us as much as they can, while they’re stuck at home,” Dooley said.