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Brown, local LGBTQ+ organizations celebrate Pride Month in-person, online after pandemic closures last year

Community members begin to celebrate Pride in-person again alongside virtual events

Throughout the pandemic, Brown and local LGBTQ+ organizations alike have been forced to reimagine how to gather their communities while abiding by public health restrictions. Last June, the in-person pride parades and gatherings central to Pride Month were canceled or postponed as the COVID-19 pandemic reached new heights nationally. But this year, as COVID-19 rates continue to decline and vaccination levels rise, local organizations have begun to offer in-person celebrations, combined with some online events.

Pride Month’s timing at the start of the summer normally precludes on-campus celebration, given that most community members are away from College Hill. But the University’s three-semester calendar this year means more students are at Brown in June.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to celebrate Pride in June in quite the same way we’ll be able to celebrate Pride this year,” Caitlin O’Neill, assistant director of the LGBTQ Center, wrote in an email to The Herald.

The LGBTQ Center’s first in-person event of the year will take place Wednesday on the Main Green, where O’Neill hopes the LGBTQ Center’s staff will be able to “introduce (themselves) to a whole new generation of Brown students.” The event will include music, food, merchandise and a giveaway to students who sign up to attend.

“While the pandemic may still make gathering very difficult in many circumstances, recent guidelines from the state and from Brown are allowing us to come together,” O’Neill added.

O’Neill wrote that they hope having both in-person and virtual activities will allow students to “find programs that meet their specific needs and still allow them to make meaningful connections” with the LGBTQ Center and other students.

As public health guidelines ease locally and on campus, “we’re hoping that there will be more opportunities for LGBTQ+ students to … interact in ways that may not have been possible since the beginning of the pandemic and to be visibly seen and feel affirmed,” O’Neill wrote.

The LGBTQ Center will also host an online speed-friending event June 22 to allow students to “link up with each other and find some common interests,” O'Neill wrote. They added that the Center will collaborate with the Brown Center for Students of Color to host a talk with Rodney Davis, a community activist who helped organize with Rhode Island Pride in previous years, to speak about “his experiences as a Black queer man of faith.”

Other local organizations noted that their plans for the month are downsized from the large events held prior to the pandemic. Tiffany Carcieri, administrative coordinator of Youth Pride Inc., wrote in an email to The Herald that the organization typically marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade. Though the event has been postponed, YPI will host an outdoor celebration for their youth with “music, food, games and community.”

SouthCoast LGBTQ Network, which serves the LGBTQ community of southern coastal Massachusetts, has held large in-person celebrations in years past, including a speech from a protestor who was at Stonewall and a “Pride in the Park” event gathering 500 attendees, according to Andy Pollock, SouthCoast LGBTQ Network president. While the organization’s events were entirely virtual for 2020, it has expanded its operations to include some in-person events this year.

“We’re doing some things like walks in the park and some other safe outdoor activities,” he said. “But we’re also doing virtual events so people can join on Zoom.”

Among its in-person events, the organization will host a Round Table Talk Sunday which will discuss the documentary “Gen Silent,” according to Pollock. The documentary centers upon “older LGBT folks going back in the closet” to live in senior living facilities, he said. When picking the programming for this year, Pollock said, the organization focused on “youth, elders and the trans community,” hoping to highlight some particularly “vulnerable” groups in the community.

The organization also plans to show five films at the Zeiterion Theater in New Bedford, Massachusetts both virtually and in-person, Pollock said. Youth events will also include a mix of virtual and in-person programming, he said.

Still, some organizations have opted to exclusively offer remote events this year given ongoing public health risks. Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgender Elders Rhode Island, an advocacy group for LGBT elders, is offering a movie series for Pride Month through Zoom, they wrote in an email to The Herald. Additionally on June 28, SAGE RI will hold the SAGE RI LGBT Short Film Festival, which will include the opportunity for attendees to meet the films’ creators.

Since its onset, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced local LGBTQ+ organizations to adapt their programming and find new ways to celebrate. Since most events were large and in-person, Pollock said that “when COVID hit, (they) had to really rethink fairly quickly.”

“We wanted to have a well-balanced and a comprehensive Pride Month,” which, going forward, might continue to include virtual events for those who cannot attend in person,” Pollock said. 

Coming out of the pandemic, local organizations are excited for the future of their communities. 

For Pollock, the recent purchase of a building in the works to become a community center will open new doors for SouthCoast LGBTQ Network.

For Carcieri, the pandemic has taught her and YPI that Pride transcends the events. “If you have enough pride in your own identity and are surrounded by like-minded individuals,” she wrote, “any day and any place can be Pride.”


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