Courtesy of Kelsey Randall

Celebrating Pride In 2020: LGBTQIA+ Voices Share How This Year Is Different

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Pride celebrated its 50th anniversary this past month, but celebrating this half-century marker looks starkly different than the years that came before it. New York City was scheduled to host this month-long celebration that culminated in the Jun. 28th Pride parade. That schedule was swiftly canceled as headlines like "Stay Safe, Stay Home, Stay Proud" began to circulate the internet, and as everyone entered the era of social distancing. the question of how to meaningfully celebrate Pride in 2020 was up in the air.

There have also been the BLM protests, which fought the same injustices challenged in the early morning hours of June 28th, 1969 — when the Stonewall riots occurred. Trans women, including Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, resisted arrest and fought back against a police force that raided the Stonewall Inn. 50 years later, police brutality against both the Black and LGBTQIA+ community continues to endanger the lives of American citizens, sparking outcry.

With an abundance of at-times overwhelming issues at hand, the question of how to celebrate Pride through your personal style might initially feel like a vapid discussion. But if there's anything to be appreciated about fashion, it is the ability to employ it as a mechanism for self-expression — especially in times of unrest and revolution. With this in mind, continue ahead to hear voices from and see images shared by the LGBTQIA+ community expressing how they celebrated Pride this year through their style, activism, and collective drive to make a permanent change.

B. Hawk Snipes, Actor and Activist

Courtesy of B. Hawk Snipes

Pose's B.Hawk Snipes has been celebrating Pride through introspection. "[I've been] acknowledging and accepting the different feelings that are attached to my blackness, queerness, and trans/non-binary experience," they tell TZR. Snipes shares this year has been unlike any other. "Honestly, It's been the most challenging Pride month to get through because of the tragic attacks and murders of so many innocent Black cis and trans bodies," they note. "In times like this, I also use my Black, queer, and trans joy as resistance to power myself to push forward."

Some of these joyful actions manifest for Snipes through meditation, reading, and connecting with loved ones through social media. "Also, being one of the board members for a beautiful, smart, and talented femme collective such as @btfacollective has been so inspirational," Snipes says. "Let’s please continue to give back to Black trans femmes who are putting their lives on the line for a brighter future for us all."

Kelsey Randall, Designer

Courtesy of Kelsey Randall

Fashion designer Kelsey Randall has been a New York City resident for 15 years. "In the time I've lived here and celebrated Pride, the vibe has always been such a reflection of what was going on politically," she tells TZR. "Whether it was the joyful atmosphere following the legalization of gay marriage or the first Pride after Trump's election where the turnout was absolutely massive, it's really a reaction to the current climate." As such, this year Randall celebrated Pride in a way that mirrored 2020's challenges. "In light of COVID-19, I've personally sewn and donated over 2,000 masks and have made sure to prioritize LGBTQ+ non-profits I love like the Ali Forney Center which helps homeless queer youth," she shares. "I am trying to use whatever platform I have to amplify Black queer voices and show up for as many protests and demonstrations as possible."

"Pride for me this year is not about celebrating, it's about trying to figure out how I can be a force for good in the world and help contribute to the next chapter in LGBTQ+ equality," she adds. "As a designer, I will continue to make joyful, socially responsible garments that refuse to conform to fashion industry norms."

Anwesh Sahoo, Illustrator and Speaker

Anwesh K. Sahoo

"Pride month this year hasn't been as happy for most Indian LGBTIQA+ individuals," Anwesh Sahoo shares with TZR. "However, I believe this year we celebrate the community's resilience." He notes that most transgender persons in India have lost their jobs and the lockdown has confined those in the community in toxic environments. "Most of them have been pushed back into closets, having to live a life of someone they aren't, given the paucity of a safe space offline with the onset of COVID," he shares. "Also, since the healthcare systems are overwhelmed, the treatment and testing for HIV have taken a hit."

Sahoo remains motivated despite the current challenges. "Our ray of hope in these trying times are the incredible forces behind Queer relief fundraisers in the country," he says. "There's a list of collated active fundraisers put out by The Pink List India and the likes of Anish Gawande, Grace Banu, Rachana Mudraboyina, Santa Khurai, Sarang Punekar and many more have done an incredible job in collecting funds and channelizing the same the right way," he adds. "We celebrate their efforts and the grit of this wonderful community that I get to be a part of."

Natalie Geisel, Student and Activist

"Both the pandemic and the current protests have made me reconsider Pride in every way possible," Natalie Geisel shares with TZR. "[Pride without a parade] doesn't mean that Pride is canceled this year; it just means we have to celebrate in different, more radical ways and stay true to Pride's roots." For her, this translates to supporting BLM causes and taking time to continue to study Black queer authors. "I'm heavily concerned with BLM and its connection to Pride at the moment. The only way I know I'll be 'celebrating' at the moment is by donating to Black queer funds (for example, Black and Pink, the gofundme for homeless Black trans women, the LGBTQ+ bail fund, and The Audre Lorde Project)," she says. " Also, while I have already read a majority of Black queer authors and scholars (like Audre Lorde and James Baldwin), I will continuously read their works to get more educated and understand the inherent intersection of Blackness with Pride."

Teraj, Musician

Courtesy of Teraj

"COVID-19 has fundamentally changed all of our lives and for the LGBTQ+ community, Pride is no exception," Teraj shares with TZR. "Despite all in-person celebrations and events being canceled in tandem with the recent global prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement, this period in time has brought us back to the roots of Pride, which is and has always been a protest." His main focus for this year's Pride has been to push for the progression of BLM. "I'm encouraging everyone in the LGBTQ+ community to stand in solidarity with BLM because our community enjoys liberties and freedoms that were bravely fought for by Black transgender and QPOC activists, like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera," he says. "We cannot celebrate Pride while Black lives are not being cherished, protected, valued as equal, and further lost to police brutality, systemic racism, and racial injustice."

Teraj's Black heritage is part of his "everyday stride, experience, and expression; whether it’s through my music, social media channels, philanthropic efforts, or in these New York City streets," he adds. "So, I’ll have one fist in the air while carrying the Pride flag in the other to fight for my intersectionality’s visibility all year long."

Sheena Sood, Designer

Courtesy of Sheena Sood

abacaxi Designer Sheena Sood celebrates Pride isolated this year — but still very much connected to her community. "I'm celebrating Pride this month from a temporary home in California, still in quarantine, in solidarity with everyone who is doing the work on the streets," she shares with TZR. "Having to rely on myself for everything has led to a feeling of resilience. I've been finding joy in small things like watching the sunset from a hammock, observing passion flowers growing in our garden, and playing with the reflections from my rainbow-maker window decals. This is helping to create moments of wonder during a time of change in the world and a difficult time for my family." Her recent experimentation with rainbow stickers and their symbolism has led to a new design venture. "I decided to design custom abacaxi ones and send them to all of my customers," she says. "Rainbows for all."

Alysse Dalessandro Santiago, Writer & Influencer

Courtesy of Alysse Dalessandro Santiago

It was only last year that Alysse Dalessandro Santiago was passing the Stonewall Inn on a float in celebration of World Pride. " I thought about the strength of women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera to fight for the rights of a community that didn't accept them as trans women of color," she tells TZR. "This year, I have been focusing on how I can help to remind our community of our history so that the trans women of color who fought for our rights are not erased any longer." Santiago is a white queer cis woman and acknowledges her role in that erasure.

"Rather than donating to large LGBTQ+ organizations, I have been focused on donating to GoFundMe's or organizations dedicated to directly helping Black trans people in need," she notes. Santiago's 2020 Pride highlight? "Attending a march with my husband Giovonni Santiago where he was a featured speaker. Hearing him passionately share his experience as a Black trans man was powerful and something I will never forget," she shares. "I admire him so much for using his voice to educate others and create change." You can donate to support his non-profit for transgender youth called META Center Inc here.