What Does Pride Month Mean Post-Pandemic?

LED shaped rainbow shines in dark room. Image by Unsplash.

Yansall Rasquides/Staff Writer 

With the closing of Pride Month, FIU students, staff and alumni said this year is more meaningful to them than ever.

Pride Month is celebrated by the LGBTQ+ community worldwide during the month of June. The celebration often honors those who protested during the Stonewall riots during June 1969. 

PantherNOW interviewed four members of the LGBTQ+ community asking them what Pride Month means to them.

Amelia León, an FIU alum and gender fluid drag performer, also known as Bad Papi, graduated in 2019 with a degree in biological sciences.

Amelia Leone poses with ‘Best Bi’ shirt. (Photo courtesy of Amelia Leone)

“Pride means living my true authentic self in peace, you know… I’m tired of the persecution and the violence,” said León. “As a trans Latine queer individual and seeing the violence towards my community, this pandemic has been really rough.”

In 2020, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) recorded the deaths of over 37 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, with a total of 200 known violent deaths since 2013. 

“I love my identity and I celebrate who I am every day… but this month is dedicated specifically to fighting for others, for our community’s rights,” said León. “I’ll be here fighting for trans lives and queer individuals and letting them know they’re not alone.”

León is also an owner of the nonprofit organization Reflect and hosted a art market on June 26 to fundraise for a grant for queer individuals. Queer vendors participated along with drag shows throughout the event. 

Yas Wood, a fourth year graduate student obtaining a master’s degree in statistics and data science, shared similar sentiments to León.

“I realized that I actually was transgender, and when I began that journey I realized that’s the important part, realizing you don’t have a linear journey,” said Wood. “There’s ups and downs, and you’ll figure things out… I think that’s one of the most beautiful parts of it.”

Yas Wood smiles while wearing a blue suit. (Photo courtesy of Yas Wood)

Wood reflected on how the community has been treated, when asked what this year’s Pride Month meant for them.

“A lot of the time, we have been left out of conversations when it comes to LGBTQ rights,” said Wood.

In 2021, state legislatures across the country have already introduced more than 100 bills restricting the rights of trans people. On the first day of Pride Month, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill preventing transgender female students from playing on public school teams correlating with their corresponding gender identity. 

“Pride means calling onto other congress members that may not identify as transgender, or nonbinary or gender non-conforming in general, and saying that we also need your help,” said Wood. “The same way that you fought for your own rights, help us fight for ours.”

Elisa Killen, a junior majoring in hospitality with a culinary focus, noted the importance of celebrating Pride.

Elisa Killen poses with a blue eyeshadow look. (Photo courtesy of Elisa Killen)

“The significance of Pride is going in harder, having more pride than ever,” said Killen. “It means doing as much as you can to be as out, or as out as you want.”

When asked about their queer journey, Killen discussed the importance of developing your true identity. 

“I like to dress, and maybe be identified as more than just what someone may see, that’s something I’m trying to embrace as much as I can,” said Killen. “I kind of just changed my pronouns for that reason, to embrace any side that I can be, whether it’s within the binary or not.”

Erica Jayne Friedman, associate director of the Pride Center at FIU, recalled a barrier set up by the pandemic.

“It’s funny because I realized, just a couple of weeks ago, that it had been like years since I actually celebrated Pride,” they said.

Moving from New York to Miami in 2019, Friedman was ready to start a new chapter. Sadly for Friedman, Pride celebrations were canceled due to the pandemic. 2020 was another obstacle-filled year, putting celebrations to a halt. 

“This year, for me it was really about reclaiming that club experience, that night out,” said Friedman. 

It was on June 12, 2016 when 49 people were killed during a mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fl. The university hosted their 5th annual Pulse Night Club vigil commemorating the victims of the massacre.

Erica Jayne Friedman poses on balcony. (Photo courtesy of Friedman)

As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, states have begun to ease restrictions and are allowing some in-person celebrations. 

“After getting the vaccine, and touching base with some friends who have also been vaccinated, I said alright let’s do this… so I actually went out for Pride for the first time in a really long time, and it felt really good,” said Friedman.

For many, Pride Month commemorates changemakers such as transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson, who is credited with throwing the first brick or shot glass that sparked the Stonewall uprising in 1969. 

Sylvia Rivera was another transgender activist who fought alongside Johnson, co-creating the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) group to help homeless LGBTQ youth.

“Being proud and loving who you are does not need to be celebrated only during the month of June, it should be celebrated everyday,” said Friedman. “Any student, any person can celebrate Pride, because even if you’re not a part of the LGBTQ community, celebrating with us is a part of that form of allyship.” 

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