Pride 2020: Looking Back to Move Forward
Pride was a riot: the first celebrations of LGBT identity in the United States commemorated how queer protestors resisted harassment and targeted discrimination by the police at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, 1969. Led primarily by trans women and drag queens of color, the riots lasted for six days and inspired LGBT people around the country to openly advocate for themselves in demonstrations.
Today, we see companies and corporations embrace rainbow iconography and highlight queer stories throughout the month June. Pride has become a symbol of light, revelry, and freedom. We now traditionally welcome Pride with celebrations of color and queer expression, but how can we be more mindful of Pride as a necessity to survival?
With the onset of COVID-19 and mounting racial justice movements, we’ve started to focus on what is truly essential for humanity to thrive. While we’ll miss the dancing, parades, and drag shows, we can now create greater space for the values and struggles that necessitated Pride in the first place. With that in mind, we asked two of our LGBT employees, Avery Conant (Sr. Quality Project Manager) and Seth Gonzalez (Sr. Quality Specialist), to weigh in on how different June 2020 feels.
If COVID-19 never happened, how would you be celebrating Pride?
I was able to attend the 2019 San Francisco Trans March with some fellow Checkrs last year, and it was an incredible experience. I had never been to a Pride event as community-focused and welcoming before, and definitely would have gone again. – Avery
I’m from Long Beach and was looking forward to going back down there for Pride this year. After surviving a Florida childhood, Long Beach (and Los Angeles in general) is where I found my first queer community in my early to mid-20s and really started discovering what being queer meant for me, which is why I often refer to it as my queer hometown. I also haven’t been back for Pride since growing into my non-binary identity, so it would’ve been nice to experience it again as a more actualized version of myself.
Fortunately, the internet has revolutionized the meaning of queer community and how we can connect with each other outside of traditional spaces. Maybe Pride can be tweeting. Maybe Pride can be a fundraiser party on Zoom. Maybe Pride can be sipping a warm Modelo in your backyard wearing a Kentucky Derby hat and trying to gain the trust of your neighbor’s massive cat. There’s no one way to celebrate queerness. – Seth
Has the context of Pride changed for you in recent weeks?
Isolation has unquestionably helped me contemplate the impact that my queer community has on my emotional and psychological well-being —something I took for granted in many ways before. Being able to see people who have varied but shared experiences and understanding of the world is one of the things that I miss most about life being “normal.” I’m grateful that the shelter-in-place rules have gotten me to try to reconnect with that community through reading about LGBTQ+ history, which has been like finding new friends and allies just from my phone. Avery
It should have for everyone. I think Pride this year has been stripped of a lot of what has made it a headache in many ways over the years — celebrations that center the cisgender white experience and performative, capitalist allyship from corporations. It’s been refreshing to see the focus shift back to centering our most marginalized voices, giving more visibility to Black queer- and trans-led organizations, and remembering through these protests that we’ve gotten where we are through focused, and sometimes violent, resistance. – Seth
The most important thing for better allyship is to listen to the people who have the lived experience and make a place for their voices
How can mainstream America become better allies to the LGBTQ community?
Something I feel like many people have understood more lately is empathy. We’re all stuck, deprived of many liberties like going to a Pride Parade that we enjoyed just last year and have a shared experience of being in this together. This empathy with each other’s experiences is what helped galvanize the gay rights movement, championed by trans women of color, to become something many people cared deeply about. I hope that this shared experience and empathy informs our understanding of each other, even if we live different lives and have different values. The most important thing for better allyship is to listen to the people who have the lived experience and make a place for their voices. – Avery
It’s time for people to fully realize that allyship isn’t an identity — it’s action. What are you doing to actively make the world a better and safer place for queer, and especially trans people? It’s time to move beyond just changing your avatar or using a hashtag for us and start showing up for trans folks in every way possible. When a trans person sets up a donation page for housing or surgery, open your purse. Donate to organizations, sign petitions, email your district supervisor.
When a family member says something transphobic at a gathering, speak up. “It’s just a joke! You’re always so sensitive!” Hearing this from family and friends can make you feel like you’re being disruptive or “that person,” but we need you to start owning being that person — especially when it’s uncomfortable, and especially when it’s unpopular. The sooner you stop trying to minimize the waves you’re making, the sooner you can start being an ally in real, impactful ways. – Seth
At Checkr, we traditionally have our LGBT resource group the CheQueers lead Pride celebrations in the office. We hire local drag performers, attend the Trans March, and educate the company about queer icons and allyship. Today it may feel like the typically raging Pride season has come to a quiet, sputtering halt as we just stay home and binge watch Pose. If we look outside however, a different kind of energy is brewing. People are discovering history. Marsha P. Johnson is becoming a household name. Companies are openly calling for diverse employees and striving to do better. The protests for Black Lives Matter intersect with calls to protect trans lives. On the empty streets that once hosted glittering floats with people of all identities, Pride is a riot!
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It’s been refreshing to see the focus shift back to centering our most marginalized voices, giving more visibility to Black queer- and trans-led organizations