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Pride Celebrations Turn Virtual as Technology Brings Communities Together

Pride Teach-Out explores how COVID-19 has impacted LGBTQ communities

This logo was created by Media Designer Eleanor Daftuar, in consultation with the Spectrum Center staff.

This year’s Pride celebrations will be unlike any other in its more than 50-year history. In the time of COVID-19, events throughout the United States have been canceled or moved to online platforms. However, that does not mean that celebrations have stopped — it just means that the celebrations look a little different.

The LGBTQ Pride: From Origins to Evolution Teach-Out, which launched June 1, explores Pride’s origins and explores its meaning in the time of COVID-19 from multiple perspectives.

“This wasn’t a party. It wasn’t always a parade. It was a riot against oppression. And if we look back at our roots, it allows us to gain strength,” said Jesse Beal, director of the LBGT Resource Center at Michigan State University.

Get Involved | Enroll in LGBTQ Pride: From Origins to Evolution Teach-Out

Pride’s origin traces back to the Stonewall rebellion, a demonstration against police raids targeting the LGBTQ+ community in New York in 1969. Those acts of resistance gave way to more demonstrations and evolved into the celebration of LGBTQ+ identities and sustained protests against inequalities we see today.

COVID-19 Impacts LGBTQ Community in Many Ways

Jesse Beal headshot
Jesse Beal, Director, LBGT Resource Center at Michigan State University

The loss of Pride events due to COVID-19 will have an impact on the LGBTQ+ community, said Jack Alferio, who previously interned at the University of Michigan Spectrum Center.

“Sometimes, Pride really is the only time of year where smaller town or rural queer and trans people can get to a bigger city and participate in queer life,” he said.

The pandemic hits the LGBTQ+ community especially hard, not just in the loss of Pride celebrations, but because it creates even more isolation for an already vulnerable community.

“I feel for the already isolated queer and trans people that really look forward to Pride as a time of year where they can be out,” Alferio said.

College students, in particular, are heavily impacted by the pandemic, particularly when they cannot readily move back home.

“For so many of our students, going home wasn’t an option because part of being queer and trans today is struggling with families who aren’t accepting and affirming of who we are,” Beal said.

The Pride Teach-Out helps provide understanding and reflection on Pride’s history and complexities and brings together multiple perspectives on representation and the personal experience of members of the LGBTQ+ community, including the views of current students.

Learn More | A Virtual Journey Exploring Pride by Roman Christiaens and Mark Chung Kwan Fan, The Spectrum Center

Technology Brings Communities Together

Leslie Tetteh headshot
Leslie Tetteh, Heritage Month Graduate Student Program Coordinator at University of Michigan

While circumstances have forced people apart, digital technology allows people to come together in a variety of ways. The Pride Teach-Out allows anyone in the world to connect with learners virtually.

Likewise, virtual events, social media, and online communities are continuing to connect people worldwide.

“Social media has definitely played a huge role in continuing to celebrate Pride even though it won’t be happening (in person),” said Leslie Tetteh, a Heritage Month graduate student coordinator with the Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs office.

Tetteh said they have relied on resources shared by people of color (POC) artists who hold and promote virtual events on Zoom and Google Hangouts.

“It’s a collection of random strangers who share the identity of being queer and still celebrating from a distance even though we don’t have the march and Pride as a whole,” they said.

Meanwhile, Beal said while they have reached the limits of digital engagement with everything happening in the world, they are taking a decidedly old-school approach to celebrating Pride this year.

“I have a simple goal — I am writing handwritten letters to my LGBTQA+ elders to thank them for being who they were and giving me the space to be who I am today.”

The Teach-Out is one way for individuals to learn about and connect with LGBTQ+ communities. Registration for LGBTQ Pride: From Origins to Evolution Teach-Out is open, and enrollment is free. The Teach-Out launches on June 1 and is available through the end of the month.

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