Pride teach-out explores how COVID-19 has impacted LGBTQ communities

June 8, 2020
Written By:
Laurel Thomas

Pride flag behind a medical face mask. Image credit: iStockThis 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, organizers say, that does not mean that celebrations have stopped—it just means they 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. The teach-outs from the University of Michigan Center for Academic Innovation are short, self-paced learning opportunities on emerging topics.

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

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 U-M 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, when they cannot readily move back home.

“For so many 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,” said Jesse Beal, director of the LBGT Resource Center at Michigan State University.

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.

Technology brings communities together

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 at the U-M Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs office.

Tetteh said they have relied on resources shared by POC (people of color) 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,” Beal said.

Registration is open and enrollment is free. The teach-out is available now through the end of the month.


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