This is a Pride month like no other. While work still continues on the policy front, Global Pride is now officially the biggest LGBTI+ festival ever. This 52INSIGHTS explores Pride 2020 through a Covid-19 lens, and how pop culture and social justice activism is evolving thanks to LGBTI+ people and their allies.
GLOBAL PRIDE, LGBTI+ YOUTH AND COVID-19
“93% of LGBTI+ youth are struggling with anxiety, stress or depression during Covid-19.” BeLonG To Youth Services (the national organisation supporting LGBTI+ young people in Ireland)
While Pride has been an iconic annual protest since the Stonewall riots in 1969, Saturday marks the first-ever ‘Global Pride’ event - happening digitally. There are 500 organizations from over 91 countries involved in a nonstop 24-hour program in which every continent, including Antarctica, will be represented.
The relevance of Pride manifests in different ways each year, depending on the cultural and political narratives of the time. Many human rights experts have raised the importance of considering the LGBTI+ community in the global response to the pandemic. Covid-19 has been affecting young LGBTI+ communities disproportionately. A new report by Irish youth organisation BeLonG To, focuses on LGBTI+ youth (14-23 year olds) life during lockdown. It reveals that Covid-19 has serious implications for the mental health of LGBTI+ youth - 93% of LGBTI+ youth are struggling with anxiety, stress or depression during the lockdown period. This is in comparison to 53% of the general youth population named in the Young Social Innovators Covid-19 Youth ‘Check In’ Survey. 53% of LGBTI+ young people surveyed also indicated their home environment is not a good place to be during the Covid-19 restrictions.
Anonymous responses to BeLonG To’s LGBTI+ Life in Lockdown Survey include:
- “Sometimes I think being dead is better than having to deal with online school, criticism from the person I live with, and the fear of the virus.”
- “Right now, my depression is worse than it’s ever been, and really that’s saying something. I’ve had days where I couldn’t even get out of bed, because of a numbness and lack of motivation.”
- “They know I am gay, but we do not speak about it. They make comments without thinking and never make any effort to be accepting or ask me about my personal life.”
- “My sister harasses me and calls me slurs to her friends. I just want quarantine to be done so I don’t have to hear her justify homophobia.”
This is not an experience unique to Ireland - organisations in many countries, including the UK, have been speaking up and providing proof points about how the Covid experience has uniquely affected LGBTI+ communities. The importance of this year's ‘digital’ Pride for the young LGBTI+ community around the world is not to be underestimated.
COVID, JUSTICE & THE EMERGENCE OF MINORITY ALLIANCES
‘Intersectionality’ refers to the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. The term is used as a framework for understanding how a person’s social or political identities might combine to result in unique discrimination or privilege, and it is becoming more widely used by young social justice advocates and activists who are raising awareness of how issues are interrelated.
“As members of the LGBTI+ community, we all know what it feels like to not have the same rights as everyone else or simply having a bias placed on us by others. I think this is what makes the majority of the community supportive of other minorities who are experiencing social injustices. When Black Lives Matter came to the forefront of the news agenda I personally felt compelled to be as supportive as possible.” Dan, age 25
The current Black Lives Matter protests have strengthened emerging alliances, through a collision of interests, between marginalized groups. Tens of thousands of people took to streets nationwide in the US in the last few weeks in support of Trans Black Lives - as two Black trans women were killed in the space of 24 hours- leading to a surge in the use of #BlackTransLivesMatter (a Black Trans Lives protest is also due to happen this weekend in London). This Pride takes things back to where it all began. It is a reminder for everyone in the LGBTI+ community of how Black Trans women in particular were paramount in the fight for their human rights.
PRIDE CULTURE 2020: WHAT’S GOT PEOPLE TALKING
Allies have also started to emerge thanks to the mainstream explosion of Drag. The phenomenal success of shows like Drag Race, has seen Drag go from selling out smaller capacity gay-club type venues, to headlining global stadiums. What this means is that LGBTI+ culture has become more accessible to more people. This accessibility, inevitably, has led to celebration and greater empathy and consideration for LGBTI+ issues in more mainstream spaces.
The below list of resources are essential and recommended watching - not only for you to become a better ally through a deeper understanding of the LGBTI+ community, but also to enjoy:
- Disclosure - Laverne Cox’s new documentary about Trans lives and the portrayal of Trans on screen.
- Paris Is Burning - iconic 1990 documentary chronicling the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it.
- Pose - a drama TV series about New York City's African-American and Latino LGBTI+ and gender-nonconforming ballroom culture scene in the 1980s and, in the second season, early 1990s.
- Euphoria - a teen drama TV show that follows a group of high school students through their experiences of drugs, sex, friendships, love and identity.
- Queer Eye - a reboot of a show where a ‘fab five’ team of gay professionals give transformative lifestyle and fashion makeovers to guests. New episodes are live!
- RuPaul’s Drag Race - a cult-following inspired reality series for Drag Queens.
- Out - ‘Out’ is a new Pixar short available on the Disney+ app, featuring Pixar’s first gay lead. It ‘flips the script’ on coming out narratives.
This year, in the context of Black Lives Matter and Covid, we are reminded of the importance of allyship with vulnerable minority groups in society. Being an ally to the LGBTI+ community is about standing up for equality everyday.
2020 is a defining year for brand purpose and social justice. Accountability is the new authenticity when it comes to brands and organisations supporting Pride and moving their diversity and inclusion efforts forward. However, for brands, expectations have gone beyond these basics (authenticity and accountability to ensure you are not virtue signalling). If you are not refocusing for the current moment and not considerate of the intersectional nature of minority issues (eg. the disproportionate challenges facing Black Trans people), you are in danger of being seen as out of touch.
For more on how to ‘perfect pride’ as a brand, read our 52INSIGHTS from 2019.