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By Sydney Brouillard-Coyle 

There are those who may find pride parades frivolous and superficial, while others find them to be outright disgusting (often those who are queerphobic and transphobic). However, for many queer and trans people, this is a place of safety, of belonging, and community.

We are often erased from mainstream media; spoken over by those who claim to be allies; and altogether banished from the church. So, in the midst of a global pandemic, how do we celebrate pride? When pride parades are shut down, where can the queer and trans community gather to celebrate who we are? How can we continue to highlight the voices of queer and trans individuals through masks and social distance?

I am fortunate that my own pride community has, in many ways, grown since the beginning of the pandemic.

I work at Trans Wellness Ontario, an organization who seeks to “enhance and sustain the health and wellness of transgender, genderqueer, two-spirit, non-binary, queer and questioning communities and their families”. I am surrounded by an excellent team of people who use my real pronouns, who celebrate me for who I am, and help lift me to my greatest heights – in many ways, we are family to one another.

At Trans Wellness Ontario, I have worked with incredible clients and been able to see them flourish through my ministry as a peer mentor and group facilitator. I have collaborated with organizations and communities seeking to better understand how to be allies to the trans and queer community through our educational programming. It is incredibly fulfilling work that has made me more confident in myself, and created a pride community that I never thought I could have.

I know that I am very lucky to have this community. Not all queer and trans individuals can say the same.

As the pandemic hit, queer and trans individuals who utilized local pride centers as safe drop-in spaces found the doors closed, or the programming moved online. Queer and trans people are at higher risk for underemployment or unemployment due to discrimination, harassment, and invalidation of their experiences. Gender affirming surgeries and hormone replacement therapy is continuing to become harder to access as waiting lists grow and medical procedures deemed “non-essential” are de-prioritized. Organizations servicing queer and trans individuals have been de-privileged, with workers unable to access vaccinations, despite the fact that they often provide vital outreach work. Queer and trans individuals are more likely to be isolated from their typical community or school supports, or stuck in households that do not affirm or accept who they are. Rates of suicide attempts, intimate partner violence, and declining mental health continue to escalate, day after day, with no clear end in sight.

As we mark the month of pride, many queer and trans people are mourning what used to be – the joy of hearing Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” blasting from the speakers on the float in front of you; the rainbow outfits and pride flags wrapped around so many of the attendees; the smiles, greetings, and hugs as a community comes together to celebrate who we are with the annual pride parade. While it is essential to continue to keep each other safe by social distancing, wearing masks, and avoiding large gatherings, it is also essential to find a way to preserve this opportunity for a community to be with one another. 

How do we celebrate pride during a pandemic? It starts, first and foremost, by reaching out to local organizations who work with queer and trans individuals to find out what they need. Many are suffering from a lack of funds or donations, and are having difficulty in maintaining their programs or adapting them to virtual settings.

Work with your church leadership to offer pride-related initiatives for your congregation and community – invite a guest speaker, or host an educational workshop taught by queer and trans activists. Consider fun events that can be done safely, such as a social distanced pride drive-through, creating pride-related sidewalk chalk, or online events such as movie streaming or games nights. Fly the rainbow pride flag in-person at your church, share pride-related things on your social media and website, and engage in conversations with queer and trans people about how to be allies once pride month is over.

There is so much about our society that has changed in the last year. But one thing that we need to work to keep is the community that is created during pride – a safe space of love and celebration. Yes, we may not have a traditional parade – but there are so many options to provide this space of love and visibility. We just have to brave enough to draw our rainbows a little outside the box this year, in the hopes that next year, we can gather together again as one beautiful, rainbow family.

Sydney Brouillard-Coyle (ney/nem/nir) is co-chair of Proud Anglicans of Huron and music director at St. Paul’s Anglican Church. Ney were the diocesan youth delegate to General Synod 2019, and serves as a consultant to Faith, Worship & Ministry on developing Trans Liturgies.