Holding hands for Pride

Why Pride Month This Year Is Such a Breath of Fresh Air to Me

A chance to reconnect with the community after the hardship of 2020

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Tomorrow is the beginning of Pride Month, a time where we honor and celebrate the queer community. Pride Month this year, especially, will be a momentous occasion, as we continue to make the necessary steps to recover after the pandemic. To say last year was rough is the understatement of all eternity, so this year will be a moment where many queer folks have a chance to breathe anew, if you will, depending on what their circumstances have been over the past year and some change.

We talk a lot about found family in this community, so there’s a high chance that some queer folks lost direct access to that family when COVID hit. Pride festivals shut down along with numerous other events, and while online communication has been available (and CRUCIAL) during this time, the ability for in-person celebrations is gonna make a lot of people rightfully emotional.

Assuming you’re comfortable enough to gather in person, but even if you’re not, there is a bit more hope this year than there was last year and more of an acceptance of online alternatives since that’s what we’ve had to do up to this point.

I don’t think it fully hit me how devastating last year was until we started to make our way out of it. This is because, at some point, I’d gotten used to rolling with the punches.

Last March, my wife and I were in the middle of a road trip on the way to attend two back-to-back conventions: Naka-Kon and Planet Comicon Kansas City. Both of the shows are close to each other, so we planned to stay in the area for an entire week since we’re about 8 hours away from the events. After crossing the halfway point I got a message from a friend who was also planning on attending both shows.

Planet Comicon was postponed.

Shortly after, Naka-Kon was postponed.

This led to the domino effect of every single event we had planned being postponed due to COVID. I scrambled to see if I could get a refund on our hotel room (I succeeded, thankfully), and after that came the ongoing process of deciding if we wanted to get a refund for the artist alley tables we had or roll them over to 2021 – which, in several cases, is now 2022.

Selling our work at conventions used to be our primary source of income, and in just a couple of days, it was gone.

This is already a significant thing to be stressed about, but something else occurred to me somewhere between “this is how my story ends” and “no seriously this is how my story ends.”

All of those events that got canceled were all spaces where I felt like I could be my most authentic self.

I don’t just mean the obvious Lady Gaga thumping Pride parades (which are delightful and I have an agenda to pet everyone’s rainbow tutu-wearing dog), I mean the events that weren’t labeled as queer but made space for the community within them.

I’ve always felt at home at geek-centered conventions. Those were always the spaces where I’d find my people. This wasn’t just because we all bonded over the same anime or had the same headcanon about a ship, it was because many of the people I’d run into were queer. Anime conventions – and events similar to them – were where I’d see pronoun buttons in artist alley or attendees using LGBTQ+ flags as capes. It’s where I first felt comfortable walking around and holding my wife’s hand. Back when I was worried about people outside of this space knowing my sexual orientation, conventions were the perfect weekend getaway. When I’d get dropped off for the weekend it wasn’t like they knew that Anime Central had a booth that sold rainbow-themed merch, they just looked at it as a nerd event and went about their business.

Like. I couldn’t tell my dad to drop me off at Pride but I could tell him to drop me off at Anime Central.

Of course, now that I’m older, I don’t hide the fact that I’m gonna go to an anime convention and attend as many LGBTQ+ panels as possible (or host one my damn self), but I imagine with everything shutting down last year that there was a LOT of queer youth that lost that. As someone who has heard countless stories from queer youth who’d attend my panels, I know how important it is to be in a space surrounded by people who support, and celebrate, who you are. A lot of that was taken away last year. Even with the rise of online events a lot of queer youth didn’t get the chance to exist as themselves because shut down meant stuck in this unsupportive space because all of the alternatives are gone.

That’s not just the large gatherings, that’s the weekend get-togethers with friends, the trips to the bookstore that has the LGBTQ+ recommendation section (which, by the way, oh my GOODNESS there are SO MANY nerds in the manga section at bookstores these days because WE CAN GO OUTSIDE NOW), and just a lot of things that might not have occurred to us until they were gone.

I personally don’t have a desire to attend large gatherings yet, but knowing that I can at least meet up with queer friends and supportive family who I haven’t seen in over a year makes me feel a lot better about this year’s Pride Month.

Also, can I just add, that being a Black queer woman last summer was HARD as hell? This cluster of support I’ve built up over the years was a space I desperately needed last summer when dealing with COVID, the murder of George Floyd, and the temporary signs of solidarity that popped up in an attempt to gain traffic over trending hashtags. Having to navigate through spaces to see if they truly wanted to be there for me or use me to boost themselves is something I hope no one else has to experience. To top it off, all of my usual go-to places for the support I KNEW I could count on were unreachable. Yes, I will always and forever be grateful to DMs and Zoom, but that in-person comfort was missing, and that hurt.

A lot.

And frankly, knowing that we could still be the target of such violence in the middle of a global pandemic was a level of cruelty I couldn’t comprehend. Not being able to be around others who would understand made it worse.

So if I or any other LGBTQ+ folks (especially marginalized folks within the community) seem a bit more emotional this June, it’s because, for the first time in over a year, it feels like we might actually be able to have the support we’ve been aching for all this time. I, for one, have many weekend plans with loved ones I haven’t seen in far too long.

Happy Pride.

(Image: David Silverman/Getty Images)

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Author
Briana Lawrence
Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)