Pride Month has taken a virtual form this year due to COVID-19, but that has not stopped the LGBTQA+ community from celebrating. (LGBTQA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual and many other terms, such as non-binary and pansexual). From virtual festivals, to performances, and social media challenges, the community have found a new way to spread their love. I have decided to interview four influencers, who are part of the LGBTQA+ community, focusing on their previous experiences of Pride and how they virtually celebrated this year. Our international influencers are:
Emelle Smith based between Manchester & London: Actor, Model, Influencer, and former contestant on Channel 4’s ‘The Circle’.
Leroy Dawkins based in London: Former Russia's Next Top Model Judge, Fashion Editor at large and Fashion Blogger Extraordinaire of the infamous ‘Diary of a Clothes Horse’
Natasha Nicole based in Perth, Australia: Photographer, Videographer, and founder of Infocus.
Rob Blandford based in Perth, Australia: Development and Alumni Relations Officer at University of Western Australia by day and Fragrance Writer & Blogger by night (RobLovesPerfumes.)
1. What have you been doing to celebrate pride this year?
Emelle - In all honesty, nothing as of yet. But I'm hoping to get together with a few of the girls and do our own little thing in the park on Saturday when the parade and parties would have originally been taking place. It's obviously a strange year for it due to Covid and the issues surrounding racism. It's pride month now but it doesn't seem right to be celebrating it when there are other current serious issues needing to be addressed. It feels wrong to be flooding people's timelines with rainbows and glitter when black people are being murdered simply for the colour of their skin. However, I do think it's important to talk about trans lives at this time, as black trans people are at the highest risk of death. Black trans people suffer from higher rates of homelessness, poverty, prison time, suicide and murder than any other group of people in America. I think it's good to make people aware of that during this time.
Leroy – This year celebrating will be tricky with what's going on in the world, but I will celebrate in my own unique way and raise a glass to the pioneers that have got the LGBTQA+ community to where it is today.
Natasha - Although more traditional pursuits have been proving difficult for us all, irrespective of where we fall upon the LGBTQA+ spectrum, pride as we all know, stems from within and as such, despite physical distancing and the cancellation of in-person opportunities, each and every one of us has had the opportunity for our own unique expression of our internal pride this year. As such I have been sharing more pride related posts throughout my social media channels, making perhaps too full of a utilisation of the pride filters and stickers on each and every image shared and through smaller gatherings shared with friends who are also queer.
Rob – In my home state of Western Australia, Pride Month is actually in November. We’re all really looking forward to being out in the streets celebrating again by then!
Rob Blandford (Photo credit: Natasha Nicole)
2. How do you usually celebrate Pride?
Emelle – I go to 3 prides a year usually in London, Brighton & Manchester! They're all so different! I love them all in their own ways but prefer Brighton and Manchester over London. I really want to go to the Girlie Circuit soon in Barcelona! It's Europe's biggest lesbian festival and looks amazing. They have outdoor parties, sports and a waterpark! It's definitely on the list.
Leroy - Normally I would celebrate by marching and of course attending a few after parties to celebrate my people.
Natasha - Usually I am celebrating pride through the parade held within my city of Perth, with each year offering more than the previous. Three years ago I was merely admiring from the side lines, two years ago I made my way along the procession with my university's float and the most recent, third year of attendance saw me as the official photographer from my university which was an honour in a multitude of ways. Being afforded the opportunity to chronicle such beautiful and wholesome moments was beyond rewarding and breathtaking.
Rob - My day job is at a University and I organise our Pride Parade entry each year so staff and students can march together in the streets. It’s a complete buzz and a great way to help others be visible and proud. I also DJ and end up playing some great gigs that night, so it’s the best time of year.
3. What do you love the most about Pride month?
Emelle – It brings everyone together. You feel like you're a part of this big family and everyone is generally really supportive of each other. It's a time where we can celebrate the part of us that we are often too afraid to show for fear of prejudice and potential violence. Every LGBTQA+ person has had some struggle in their life because of it. Whether it's the confusion of who they are, fear of coming out, abandonment from friends and family, verbal abuse or violence, we have all suffered to some extent and pride is a way of bringing each other up and showing solidarity and courage. It's a friendly and safe environment where people can be completely true to themselves. Nobody has to worry what anybody else thinks or how they might get treated. And it's FUN! Street drinking, music and a hell of a lot of glitter What more could you possibly want?
Leroy - What I love mainly about pride month is that everyone and I mean everyone is equal. It's beautiful to see equality in this section of life. It's moving on with marriages and adoptions etc but still we have a long way to go. We must accept each other in the community for example, with the male order mentality. I always say if you have problems in house how do you expect others to take you seriously.
Natasha - Whilst I must profess a certain level of adoration for the neat pride themed products that are pushed, my true love in regards to pride month lies with the fact that we are able to increase awareness, thus ideally acceptance. We have accomplished so very much yet we must not grow complacent now that the bigger letters within the term are accounted for - we need particualr focus on POC transgender rights, asexual, intersex and gender fluid awareness, education and acceptance now that we have made such strides with the LGB portion. Breaking free from negative media portrayals, in order to showcase the "normality" of day to day living is what I would ideally like to witness accomplished as speaking from a trans female perspective, I do not want my identity to be seen as simply performative or viewed as a mere sexual object - I want people to see the dynamism and dimensionality of every life, we are all so much more than a label and our outward appearance!
Rob - I love organising stuff and creating opportunities for LGBTQA+ people to celebrate their lives and identities. It helps people to cut through the tedium of the day-to-day and see some light!
4. Have you got any fond memories of celebrating pride? (Where were you? And what did you get up to?)
Emelle – My first pride was probably the most special. I went with my first girlfriend when I was 18 and it was the most incredible thing I'd ever experienced. I couldn't get over it. It was in Manchester and they closed the street off there, so only ticket holders could get through. I felt safe knowing there wouldn't be any haters there (you always get haters at the marches, Christians who tell us we will burn in hell and that God hates us all etc), but once I was inside the gates, I knew it was just love. And it was. The streets were packed with people and I'd never seen anything like it. I was mesmerised. A lot of guys were wearing nothing but a few leather straps and then others were covered in glitter. There were rainbow flags everywhere and drag queens dancing outside bars. We grabbed some beers and spent most of the day at the main stage watching different acts and then did a bar hop in the evening until about 4am. We then woke up at 10am and started all over again! Manchester Pride is a 3 day event and in the beginning we would go for all 3 days. I can't really handle that anymore though, I'm done after 1 day!
Leroy - Oh wow, I'll say that again wow! I have too many memories to recall or write down. When I say recall I mean I don't remember, but in this day and age you won't or don't see that anymore as everything is restricted so the young don't know or appreciate what their elders have done for them. Everything is so PC and people don’t realise the things (which I won't mention) that helped fight the way and put the gay community on the map. We need to put the community back into gay community as there's still so much hate out there. I myself recently experienced this in Tesco’s, the supermarket, and worst from the staff where I was mocked and as a black man profiled.
Natasha - Photographing my city's pride parade is definitely a high ranking candidate, however attending my first pride parade along with both my mother and my MTF partner at the time, is my most fond memory.
Rob - When I first migrated to Australia, I got to march in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade in February 2008. Held at night, it was the largest, noisiest, most exciting LGBTQA+ celebration I’d ever seen and incredibly exciting to march through Sydney streets being cheered by thousands of onlookers. Incredible!
5. Is there any virtual event you attended or planning on taking part in?
Emelle – If I'm honest, I haven't really had a look. I'm not really one for these virtual events. I need to vibe off people! If I was living with other LGBTQA+ people then maybe it would be fun, but I'm not sure how much I'll vibe off it being at home in a houseful of straight people. Hopefully, I can get together with a few of the girls in the park and that can be our pride :)
Leroy - Unfortunately I'm old school so won't be attending any virtual events but I am keeping my eyes peeled because with lockdown easing again. On July 4th I know there will be something going on somewhere, and if not I'll save all my energy for the big blowout next year.
Natasha - Unfortunately following a quick peruse, it appears that I have well and truly missed the ball in terms of any remaining online events - I would have loved to have partaken, but I was also rather tied up with my final folio submission for my masters of architecture.
Rob - Minus18 is an organisation which supports young LGBTQA+ people in Australia and also educates on the matters impacting young people from this community. They are doing a virtual Pride Party on June 30 which anyone can join. It starts at 7pm (GMT+10). Link: https://www.minus18.org.au/events/
Rob Blandford (Photo credit: Natasha Nicole)
5. What platform can we follow you on?
Leroy - You can follow my daily rambling on Instagram @clotheshorse90 and Twitter @clotheshorse90. My blog is called, Diary of a Clotheshorse and also (rolls eyes) Facebook which I'm not a big fan of anymore as there's so much discrimination on this platform towards the LGBTQA+ community and and also people of colour.
Natasha - My facebook is Natasha Nicole, my Instagram is @natashaxnicolex and I have a website (that is always changing) at https://infocuscollective.com/. If anyone wants to discuss advocacy, how to begin a transition, how to navigate academia/work as a transgender individual or would just love a chat, feel free to send me a message.
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Reblog: Support LGBTQ Owned Small Businesses authored by Sarah Davis.