LGBT+ students tell us how they have been celebrating Pride this year
Miss Rona won’t stop us
For many Pride is a chance to be their true selves, to forget the demons that were dragging them down when they were in the closet. This is no exception in 2020. Despite the coronavirus leading to many Pride events being cancelled, it hasn’t been enough to stop members of the LGBT+ community and their allies celebrating Pride. As many Pride events have been held virtually this year including Global Pride last weekend.
We spoke to LGBT+ students and societies around the UK to find out how they have been celebrating Pride this year and ultimately what Pride means to them.
Many have taken a different approach this year to celebrate and commemorate historical figures from the LGBT+ community, especially from the Black community given the recent events with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The committee of Oxford University’s LGBTQ Society told The Tab about how recent events concerning racism have formed their commemoration of Pride in 2020. “This year’s Pride has been less celebratory for us given it would feel somewhat inappropriate given the recent events that have highlighted once again the systemic forms of racism that permeate our society, as well as indications that planned reforms to the Gender Recognition Act are to be dropped,” they said.
They continued: “Instead, it has been a time of reflection in which we have sought to commemorate the historic contributions especially Black Trans individuals have made to the recognition of our rights as LGBTQ+ people, with the Society sharing articles that touched on these issues as well as publishing an Instagram series on queer Black icons.”
They also mentioned how they have adjusted to virtual events. “It has also been a time of coming together, which due to the COVID-19 situation has been taking part over Zoom in a variety of forms. Events we held or are still upcoming as part of our Pride line-up include a speakers event, an open mic night, a pub quiz, identity-specific and cross-identity get-togethers, and a series of welfare events. Whilst attendance has been lower than at our in-person events, these events have provided an opportunity, especially for those who can only fully experience and express their identity at university, to still stay in touch with their LGBTQ+ peers and have a sense of community that can be incredibly impactful when stuck at home.
“Another thing we have been working on for Pride is a fundraiser to raise money for the charities Gendered Intelligence and UK Black Pride. For this, we will be sending packages with Oxford themed Pride prints, and Pride badges to our members in exchange for donations. The items are a nice way to stay in touch and connected to the Society and the LGBTQ+ community during the pandemic, whilst simultaneously raising awareness and money for causes that are more important than ever.”
The University of Edinburgh’s PrideSoc told us how they’re marking Pride by making change. “As a queer society, we are celebrating Pride this year while being politically active from the safety of our homes,” they said. “From emailing our MPs about the scrapping of the Gender Recognition Act, to learning about the contributions of POC to the history of the LGBTQ+ movement, there are many conversations to have while being safe at home. The queer community is now stronger and more influential than ever. Any small contribution to that change is crucial at local levels.”
Jaime, a member of PrideSoc, told The Tab: “After everything that is going on, I genuinely thought that this year’s Pride would sadly go by unnoticed, but I have never felt more empowered as a queer person than I am today. The fact that people have come together for Trans Black Lives Matter protests, while still respecting safety measures is truly inspiring. Personally, I am grateful that we have had the chance to reflect not only on our strength as a community, but also on intersectionality.
“It was an issue that would often be ignored, now I am certain that the conversation is going to remain open. I think that we, as a uni society, now have several reasons to work harder to protect those messages moving forward.”
Hudson, the Chair of the University of Manchester’s LGBTQ Society, told The Tab about what Pride has meant to them and what their society is doing this year to commemorate pride. “Pride month 2020 has coincided with some pretty big news stories centered around the LGBTQ community, including the UK government’s expected U-turn on reforming the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, and the recent Twitter storm created by JK Rowling. The discussion of trans rights on social media platforms remains largely toxic – Twitter is not the place to be having these debates, and they require some sensitive conversations to be had in more than 280 characters. We need to work to construct a culture where these issues can be discussed in a respectful and nuanced manner.
“The fact is that while this debate rages on, trans people continue to face some very difficult circumstances, from the inability to access adequate bathroom provisions, to significantly higher occurrence rates of depression and suicide compared to the cisgender population. The discrimination faced by QTIPOC communities is even more intensified. By the second week of June we have already seen the murder of two Black trans women in the US.”
Hudson explained why Pride was so meaningful this year. “For me, this is why Pride has been particularly important this year – because despite the difficulties imposed by lockdown restrictions and the rowing back of government LGBTQ legislation, we can (and must) celebrate the best parts of our community. We can provide a voice and a platform for our most disenfranchised members and give everyone a chance to feel proud about parts of their identity they might otherwise be shamed for. At the LGBTQ society we try and maintain a safe space like this and make all our members feel heard.”
The UoM LGBTQ Society’s Women’s Events Officer, Lucy, also commented on how they’ve been marking Pride during lockdown. “Due to the current world situation, we felt that it was more important than ever to provide a virtual safe space for LGBT+ students,” she said.
“Many of our members may have been quarantined with family who might not have been accepting. Last semester before lockdown commenced, we met weekly in the Sidney Street cafe. Pretty much as soon as places started closing down we set up a recurring Jitsi room that ran at around the same time as coffee used to. We have had quite a high turn out to these virtual coffees and I feel that having a coffee and relaxed chat with like-minded people can do wonders for people’s mental health. We were also available to offer support to any society members who were struggling to cope. We also have a UoM LGBT+ group chat, into which people can voice concerns, questions or just chat. The group chat ensures that there is a safe space available to our members 24/7. In addition to this, members are always free to message the society directly through Facebook or email if they require 1 on 1 support or just someone to speak to.”
A spokesperson from the University of York’s LGBTQ+ Society told The Tab Pride is important because “it has been hard to engage with members or our society virtually as all our events/Pride celebrations have previously been face to face.”
They added: “But we believe that it is important to continue to engage with our members, as many may be isolated on their own or with supportive family.”
A spokesperson from the University of York’s LGBTQ+ Society told The Tab how “this year we have been creating online content such as Pride quizzes, recipes and playlist to remotely share with our members.”
The chair of Leeds Uni LGBT+ Society told The Tab what Pride means to them. “Pride is all about creating a sense of community and being able to provide a safe space for people to be themselves without judgement. But it’s also incredibly important to remember that Pride is and always has been a protest. We also have a special Pride-related announcement coming up in the next few days to cater to this – hopefully students will be as excited about it as we are!”
They continued to say what Leeds were doing to celebrate Pride this year: “Our new committee came together near the start of June and we’ve been trying our best to put together resources for people during this time! That includes noting charities to donate to and making people aware of where they can turn to for advice and support. Collaborating with the university’s art society has also been a feature of this month. We’ve been continuing our weekly coffee hours on Zoom and Netflix screenings in the meantime to help prevent students from feeling isolated during lockdown.”
A spokesperson from UCL’S LGBT+ Network explained: “Pride has always meant celebrating and continuing the push for liberation of LGBTQ peoples and destigmatising what it means to be LGBTQ. For this year’s Pride, however, it feels more important than ever to acknowledge the importance and struggles of Black LGBTQ peoples, particularly those of Black trans people who face persecution and violence at a disproportionately large scale. Stonewall, for example, the very event we are planning a screening week around and one of the most legendary events in gay history, was started by Black trans women and drag queens who were standing up against oppression.
“Much like how the LGBTQ community faced and continues to face oppression and violence, it is more important than ever for our community to stand with the BLM movement and fight against Black oppression. The joining of the LGBTQ community in this movement is the very definition and the core of Pride, fighting back against injustice and standing together.”
A spokesperson from UCL’s LGBT+ Network told The Tab: “Our network has continuously uploaded on our social media to share resources that educate and help LGBTQ students. We have also planned a six day ‘Stonewall Screening Week’ that showcases LGBTQ media that covers topics like gay conversion therapy, gay Black love, the stonewall riots and so on and have many more campaigns (both social and educational) planned post June that have been in the works for weeks.”
The Chair of UoB’s LGBTQ+ Association told The Tab: “We have limited our Pride activities to bringing attention to important figures in the movement and sharing interesting posts.”
A spokesperson from Cardiff’s LGBT+ Society told The Tab: “For Pride month, we’re currently making posts on social media sharing stories from our members with the aim of celebrating our diversity (currently we’ve posted bi, lesbian and gay identities but are writing more). A couple weeks ago, we hosted a Pride themed quiz looking at queer history and other related topics. Many of us feel that this year’s Pride month should start an emphasis on recognising and supporting the BAME community within the LGBT+ community so the quiz raised funds for the charity Black and Pink. The society often makes picket signs for the Pride Cymru parade but although we’re not expecting a parade, we hope to have another social making signs in person or online.”
They continued: “Pride for us means celebrating diversity and recognising as many identities across the LGBT+ spectrum as we can; making all those in our society feel loved and welcomed. Many of us use Pride Cymru as a chance to see each other again and have fun before Freshers’ Week and final year students use this as a last chance to be with uni friends after graduating. We also march with the LGBT+ Association and ENVIS (the staff LGBT+ network) and each year we gain more student and staff allies from doing this – certainly an uplifting thought. As well as the fun and games, Pride Cymru is a chance for some of us to remember the friends we’ve lost. Close friends of Jacob Wehlan, Marty Draganov and Jack May remember but we think it’s safe to say every member thinks about this impact too.”
A spokesperson from Warwick’s LGBT+ Society told The Tab they’re “currently focused on showing solidarity with the Black community as we believe an intersectional approach is what’s needed for queer liberation after all it was black and brown queer sex workers that paved the way in Stonewall.”
They added: “We’re holding fun events in the form of campus Pride but also campaigning against the alleged drawback of the GRA reform. We are going to be putting information out regarding the Trans rights protest in London within the next few days as well.”
They continued to say “looking ahead to next Pride month we want to run more intersectional events e.g. events for people with Faith, working class events, and working with Warwick enable to look at the many intersections between disabled people’s culture and queer culture.”
A spokesperson from Soton’s LGBT+ Society told The Tab: “Pride is more than just one event in one city – it’s a sense of community and solidarity spanning the world, a global visibility that is noticeable in its absence this year. Seeing Pride parades gives momentum to our cause and hope to all of us that there are places in the world in which we can be our true and authentic selves. Our committee put together a video about what Pride means to them to celebrate this year’s Pride Month.
They continued: “We’ve tried to make Pride Month one big celebration! With livestreamed quizzes on queer history, daily posts to our society group about key LGBTQ+ figures in history, and specific online virtual socials for sections of our community (our Ace/Aro Brunches and Trans Lunches are usually very well attended in person), we’re trying to show our members that being at home doesn’t mean being away from the action. Lockdown is a lonely time for so many of us, and it’s no secret that the LGBTQ+ community has been disproportionately impacted by the mental health issues that the pandemic has brought. We hope that, through the activities we run and the positivity that we share, we’re helping to make the lives of our members a little brighter throughout lockdown. We’re here, we’re queer, and no virus can take that away from us!”
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