by Andrew Harris, MEd
Assistant Program Manager, Teen and Adult Services
It’s been a long, isolating year for almost everyone, and although change is visible on the horizon, many large gatherings will be postponed or moved to virtual spaces once again this summer. For those in the Boston area, where Aspire is based, this June will be the second in a row that does not feature the incredible celebration of Boston Pride. Unable to show our support and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community in person this year, let’s take time to remember two important reasons why Pride events are still so important and consider how we can try to replicate the benefits of the celebrations in other ways during the pandemic.
PRIDE SHOWS FOLKS THEY’RE NOT ALONE
It is incredibly validating to see people similar to you; seeing someone you feel an affinity towards in a position of leadership can be inspiring and help you imagine a more successful, actualized version of yourself. The queer community is increasingly represented in the media, but this alone doesn’t fend off feelings of isolation or loneliness that many LGBTQIA+ youth feel. Seeing three quarters of a million people gather in Boston to celebrate you and people like you can make a big impact and help remind folks that they’re not alone (far from it!). Pride events are incredible opportunities to connect, bring diverse people together, and make new friends. This year, virtual communities have stepped in to try to fill some of the void left by the pandemic. At Aspire, the Teen and Adult programs have a room on our Community Discord server called #pride where LGBTQIA+ folks and allies can post news, ask questions and share their own stories – all reminders that they’re not alone. This June, Boston Pride is hosting many virtual events that you can attend; information can be found at: https://www.bostonpride.org/calendar/
PRIDE INVITES FOLKS TO SHARE AND CELEBRATE THEIR WHOLE SELF
As long as there is shame associated with queer identity or uncertainty about how others will respond when folks first share these parts of themselves, events like Pride will be necessary. Especially to those who are just emerging into the community, seeing others share their whole, authentic self with the world can be inspiring and uplifting. Luckily, there are many queer (and queer autistic) voices who are sharing their own experiences online in print, music, video and art. If you are an ally to the queer community, seeking out queer voices this June can help you better understand queer culture and empathize with the queer community. If you’re a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and have a trusted group of peers online, sharing your story and your whole self with others in a safe virtual space can be validating and may even support others who are trying to fully articulate who they are.
SHOW LOVE, ACCEPTANCE AND APPRECIATION FOR QUEER FOLKS IN YOUR LIFE
Don’t let your love, acceptance and appreciation of queer folks in your life go unsaid this summer. Going to and celebrating Pride is one way to show these things and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community, but it’s not the only way. Tell the people in your life that you’re proud of them, and you know they’ve had to be brave to share their whole self. Seek out queer voices and help to amplify them by sharing them with your community. Remember that although progress has been made, we must keep fighting for safety and equality, because the progress is fragile and exists only because of the collective actions of the queer community and its allies. This Pride Month, seek out ways to show folks that you see them, love them, and will keep fighting for them, and let’s make next year the biggest celebration of Pride Boston ever.