Pride Month is traditionally held throughout the month of June in celebration of LGBTQ identities. The month is usually met with parades, concerts, festivals and other wildly joyful celebrations as people embrace themselves and their loved ones.
However, what most forget about Pride Month is that it’s meant to pay tribute to those involved in the Stonewall Riots, which were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations that started June 28, 1969, by LGBTQ people in response to a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
In a time where the Black Lives Matter movement is at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts and is being demonstrated with peaceful and violent protests, Jan Huebenthal can only think to make the connection of both groups protesting to fight for their basic human rights, only 51 years apart.
Huebenthal, assistant director of the Ohio University LGBT Center, looks at this year’s Pride as a time of reflection and acknowledgement of the historical origins of Pride. Huebenthal sees the first Pride parade as a riot: people standing up to police harassment and saying, “We’re not going to take this anymore.”
“There are really surprising historical resonances that are happening,” Huebenthal said. “So we’re trying to think about it in those historical terms, that there is something inherently prideful that fills us with pride to think about how our community has cultivated resilience and resistance in that way.”
Huebenthal feels that making the connection between the Stonewall Riots and the Black Lives Matter protests serves as a great reminder to people about the intersectional nature of LGBTQ people. Though most are aware of the existence of the Stonewall Riots, not everyone knows they were led and organized by transgender women of color. Huebenthal believes this serves as a powerful reminder of the many different identities, experiences, oppressions and privileges that exist within LGBTQ people.
Huebenthal sees Pride as having two functions. The first is celebratory: taking the month to celebrate different identities, intersectionalities within the identities, acknowledging how far they’ve come as a group of people and taking pride in making themselves visible.
The second is a reminder of the ongoing challenges LGBTQ people face: the social justice battles that have yet to be won as well as other aspects they still have to address and work on.
For OU’s 2020 Pride Month programs, the LGBT Center staff kept the dual functionality of Pride in their minds.
“When I think about Pride today, I think about other people that came before me that made it possible for me to live my life as freely and as openly as I am, but also thinking about all the people for whom that is not yet their reality and their truth,” Huebenthal said. “It’s a celebratory asset, but there’s also something deeply reflective about it, and I think that’s the core idea of the schedule that we put together.”
On June 10 and 17, Robyn Ochs, a nationally renowned activist and speaker on bisexuality, gender and coalition building, will lead two workshops: “Bi+ Identities and Experiences” on June 10 and “Beyond the Binaries” on June 17.
Also June 10, there will be a virtual LGBTQ+ Alumni Mixer, which invites all LGBTQ+ OU graduates to share space and reflect on their journey since their time at OU.
June 18 brings SpeakOUt, a storytelling program that focuses on the experiences of trans-identified Bobcats. The panels center on individual stories and narratives with appreciative and inclusive dialogue. Following the panel, there will be a WriteOUt workshop, led by Dr. Christopher Lewis, to teach participants about putting their own stories in writing.
Then June 19, “TPott’s Table Talk” will be facilitated by student LGBT staff member TPott Potter to bring together an intergenerational panel to discuss African American LGBTQ+ experiences and identities.
Finally, every Friday throughout the month of June, the LGBT Center will feature #RainbowResilience content on its Twitter, @OhioLGBTCenter. The content ranges from discussing student experiences to providing tips on staying healthy during COVID-19.
People feel the importance of hosting virtual events is plentiful, especially amid two global crises: COVID-19 and racism.
“It is important to have pride events in June to have some normalcy in the world; June is our dedicated month to be as loud and proud as we can,” Cassie Badgett, a third-year studying forensic chemistry, said in an email. “We don't just fall back into the woodwork because the world cannot handle everything that is happening and even if we cannot have our Pride parades we can still celebrate and let it be known that we are still here and we are not going anywhere.”
The LGBT Center staff and students involved hope people take a lot of knowledge away from the programs and take a lot of time to reflect.
“I really hope that, more than anything, these virtual pride events help people in the queer community on campus know that the Ohio LGBT Center is always here for everyone,” Maddie Moore, a junior studying social work, said in an email. “This pandemic may have stopped a lot of things, but it hasn't even made a dent in our passion for serving our community. I also hope that these events help people feel represented and proud to be whoever they are.”
Though celebrating Pride Month is warranted, Huebenthal doesn’t want people to be insensitive toward the climate of racial protests in the world. While taking pride in people’s true and authentic selves, he believes people need to also continue standing up for what’s right and using social media as a platform to share content to better the world.
“I think those things are not mutually exclusive,” Huebenthal said. “What it comes down to is the idea of empathy, empathizing with others’ lived experiences and understanding who I am. I think a person of privilege, a white person like me, really has an opportunity right now to really engage in active listening and to make sure that we hear people and that we engage with their experiences and that we are vulnerable and open to what they have to tell us. I think that's kind of what the scheduled programs are also all about: being able to keep an open mind, keep an open heart and listening to what others have to say.”
Huebenthal, Badgett and Moore believe that all of the deep reflection and expansion of historic knowledge and understanding won’t take away from the first function of Pride: celebration. Huebenthal feels that working on relationships is the best way to not only combat the isolation of social distancing, but also to show solidarity with people on the frontlines of movements like Black Lives Matter.
“What I am really determined to do this Pride Month is to nurture connections with the people that are really near and dear to my heart, many of whom are hurting right now,” Huebenthal said. “This Pride season — really every Pride season — is about community care, so cultivating relationships and re-kindling ties with folks that I may not have been in touch with as much … so my Pride this month is really about nurturing and cultivating relationships.”