The month of June is typically marked by large parades full of festive floats, colorful outfits, rainbow flags, music and food. June has been recognized as Pride Month since the 1999 to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots, which were a series of demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ community against police harassment and persecution at the Stonewall inn in New York City.
Many in the LGBTQ community use June to celebrate their identity and community. However, as with much else, COVID-19 has changed the way people are able to gather and celebrate this year.
Due to the pandemic, most Pride events have been cancelled or moved online. In Bloomington, two groups, the IU LGBTQ+ Alumni Association and Bloomington Pride, adjusted their plans to account for new safety measures.
The IU LGBTQ+ Alumni Association has planned a few events each month since March. Their upcoming Pride event is a Queer Trivia Night and Pride Dance Party, which will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. on Saturday on Zoom and Twitch. Guests can sign up on their Facebook page.
Sarah Perfetti, vice president and communications chair for the alumni association board, said that while not having in-person Pride events has been disappointing, it has opened up new opportunities for her group. People who otherwise would not be able to attend an in-person Pride celebration due to various barriers can now celebrate with others for free while staying home.
“A lot of people are craving that social interaction, so not having Pride events is kind of difficult on people. It’s such a big, fun celebratory thing,” she said.
Ryne Shadday, secretary of the alumni association board, said virtual events have also allowed the group to include people who may not be able to attend in-person events because of physically not being close to Bloomington. He said the majority of people attending the events have been from out of town or from other campuses, allowing the group to expand their physical reach.
“By this point in the year, we would’ve already attended four Pride events so our presence isn’t being felt in a physical sense, so we need to make our presence felt elsewhere so everybody knows we’re here and there isn’t a better way to get people involved,” Shadday said.
Beyond Pride month, Bloomington Pride hosts its annual Pridefest each August. This year, the board decided to move the events online in accordance with safety precautions. This year, Pridefest will take place from Aug. 27 to 29.
Janae Cummings, Bloomington Pride’s director of marketing, said that the board came to the decision to move Pridefest to a virtual platform because they decided it would not be responsible to invite thousands of people into a small space. The festival will look similar to the regular festival, including workshops, live performances, DJs and drag shows.
“We’re very aware of Zoom fatigue so our goal is to make that a space that feels very different than attending some sort of meeting or official business or class meeting,” said Michael Block, Bloomington Pride’s treasurer and director of development. “We’re trying to look for a way that makes this feel very special and something that feels engaging.”
Block also said the queer community has a history of looking to online spaces to find their community.
“It’s a sad thing that we’ve had to rely so heavily on digital space but we know how to use that space, so I think there’s a lot of strength and resiliency the queer community has and has leaned on,” he said.
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