This past Pride season saw a resurgence in energy, crowds, and a collective sounding of the alarm, as our community continues to be under relentless attack and opposition in local communities, at the national level and even in Congress. While Pride provided some light in a time of darkness, we also saw how the hostile climate is impacting us in ways that are not so positive.
The good news first, our community has so often risen up to show the world our joy, diversity and resilience, and this past Pride was a perfect example of how we can manifest that while also pausing to take stock in times of great challenge.
I participated in several Prides this season, as the National LGBTQ Task Force went all out for our 50th anniversary. In many ways the Task Force went about reflecting the current moment in history we are experiencing. Our goal was to honor our past, recognize and put into context the present climate, and plan for the next 50 years.
Every pride I participated in saw a huge surge in attendance. For example, New Jersey Pride in Asbury park, the largest in the state, went from 20k to 30k. Capital Pride had its largest parade ever with 60,000 participants and hundreds of thousands on the sideline, followed by a huge festival the next day. New York City’s Pride march was back to pre-COVID attendance, possibly even greater. An iconic moment for me was when the Task Force’s current Executive Director, Kierra Johnson was side by side with David Rothenberg, one of our founding board members in 1973, along with her two young sons. They took in the crowd at the NYC Pride march and represented the past, present and future of our movement.
It was along the sidelines of the march that the real power of Pride showed itself to me once again. I cannot recall seeing so many allies, parents, and families, particularly those very visibly lifting up the need to protect trans youth. It was extraordinary and re-energizing, given what we are facing this Fall in Congress and in the 2024 election year.
Unfortunately, as Todd pointed out in his piece, not everyone was on board or held strong. Controversies with sponsors like Target were very public, but as disheartening were the stories of sponsors backing out of commitments, lessening support and generally being scared of backlash from a small group of extremists attacking any businesses or corporations that have supported our organizations. Ad revenue for our vital LGBTQ media was down.
There were some notable exceptions of course, but to have longtime sponsors and partners turn their backs on us is not just upsetting, it makes our work more difficult when we have less resources – all year round.
In closing, as we near the end of another Pride season (yes, there are more Prides happening through this month and into the Fall) we must take the energy and goodwill we experienced and channel it into advocacy. Advocacy for the Equality Act, for fights at the state and federal level, and most importantly in preparation for the 2024 Presidential election.
Let’s redouble our efforts to support LGBTQ organizations, including employee resource groups, while at the same time advocating for sponsors to do the right thing and not be bullied.