If you thought Pride 2021 was a mix of in person and virtual events but hopefully the last one, with COVID on the wane and vaccinations on the rise, think again. 
For the remainder of 2021 and the new year ahead, I can tell you that what happens next and how we adapt to the pandemic is topic #1 for anyone working at an LGBTQ organization or in the movement. And the role communicators and media play in helping us move forward as safely and effectively as possible will be critical.
We all know – if we can remember – the blur that was 2020. It was a challenge like none other, and we all thought 2021 would be the year to turn things around and get back to “normal.” Instead, it proved to be uniquely challenging in its own way. As we look towards the Fall season of events and into 2022, we continue to have questions and challenges. Just when we thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel…the tunnel got longer. 
But it’s our job – and the media’s – to be fair, accurate and thorough in looking at how we move forward as a community and navigate the twists and turns of COVID.
It’s up to our communicators and media to help the public stay informed and safe, making decisions they can feel good about. All the while keeping our work and our movement pressing forward, from legislation to fundraising to events and gatherings. No easy task in a fast-changing environment and with some high stakes political, social and cultural developments that will impact the LGBTQ community and our allies. 
It is true that with vaccinations underway across the country, we thought we were moving into the clear. And while LGBTQ people are getting vaccinated at very high percentages, it’s our responsibility to be as informed, safe and thoughtful as we can be. Our community knows better than most how a mismanaged, politicized pandemic and rampant misinformation in the media makes for a very confusing and dangerous world. 
So as the nation tiptoes out of quarantine and lockdown, in some cases opening up very quickly and in some places seeing a new wave of infections, primarily amongst the unvaccinated, we are all wondering what life could and should look like for the rest of this year and into 2022.
For example, LGBTQ+ Pride marked the first major events of the summer, with many vaccinated and eager to re-enter the social and travel world to at least a limited degree. I worked with NYC Pride, which did an amazing job planning and managing a hybrid of smaller, very controlled and safe outdoor events that were complemented by amazing virtual events that were accessible to everyone. Extensive precautions were in place – from health survey and mandatory vaccination and testing to participate even at outdoor events to mandatory mask wearing at youth pride since vaccination was not available to the under 16 member of our community, it was all about being diligent and thoughtful.
So, as we approach Fall events – from conferences to fundraisers to social gatherings – it’s important to address the pent-up desire to return to traveling, shopping, and being in community and balance that with safety precautions to protect ourselves. Because while there is a new, normalized and steady interest in virtual events, we understand the science of this pandemic better and are finding ways to work, advocate, plan and gather in the safest ways possible. 
The AIDS pandemic was politicized in one way, with those who had the disease being ignored, stigmatized, marginalized and discriminated against. In a completely perplexing, upside down way, it is those advocating for safety and science in the face of COVID that are under attack.
My hope is that our LGBTQ media – and mainstream media for that matter – maintain their objectivity and avoid sensationalizing this new phase of the pandemic. All of our LGBTQ organizations have safety as our first concern and are approaching our day-to-day work, event planning and the needs of the community with respect for the facts and science and taking every precaution possible. Let’s move forward and model how to fight back against a pandemic that has divided our nation and whose impact is being felt around the world. Together.

About the Author

Cathy Renna is a veteran in the communications industry, and currently serves as the Principal of Target Cue and the Communications Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force. Since her time at GLAAD in the 1990’s and early aughts, Cathy has executed her particular expertise in crisis and strategic communications, playing a central role in shaping nearly all major issues affecting the LGBTQ community, from the beating death of Matthew Shepard in 1998 to the fight for marriage equality and the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. She most recently worked with the team that coordinated historic coverage for WorldPride/Stonewall 50, working with NYC Pride. After leaving her position at GLAAD as National News Media Director, Cathy joined Fenton Communications, where she served as its New York office Media Director from 2004 to 2006. She went on to found Renna Communications and co-found Target Cue that same year. In her over 25 years of media relations and activism experience, Cathy has garnered placements in every major online and broadcast outlet in the country, including The New York Times, USA Today, The Associated Press, and the Washington Post. She is a sought after spokesperson for LGBTQ issues, and has appeared on the O’Reilly Factor, CNN, MSNBC, and Good Morning America. Cathy currently resides in Montclair, New Jersey. She can be reached at rennacathy10@gmail.com or 917-722-7862.

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