#StillWe Pride Month hopes for more representation, stands with BLM
AU community finds meaning in this year’s theme amid the COVID-19 pandemic
Stephanie Bortruex, co-chair of American University’s LGBTQ+ Faculty & Staff Affinity Group, said her proudest moment, within the organization, was marching in the 2019 Capital Pride Parade. After nearly a year of anticipation and working with the University for even more support in the 2020 parade, Capital Pride’s cancellation was a disappointment for the organization, Bortruex said.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Capital Pride announced “Pride 2020 Reimagined,” a series of virtual events in lieu of traditional Pride gatherings. The theme, #StillWe, was unveiled in February, but made no mention of the pandemic that would later change how Pride is normally celebrated. The theme references “the resilience, resistance, unity and pride that exist within our community,” said Ryan Bos, Capital Pride Alliance’s executive director, on the website.
Now, months later, the theme rings even more true. Despite the cancellations, members of the AU community still celebrate and find meaning in #StillWe Pride.
Bortruex, who is a financial operations specialist in the University library, said the word “still” resonates the most with her.
“It feels like we’ve been here before, we’ve been fighting this fight for so long, we’ve been marching these streets over and over again,” she said.
To Bortruex, the sharing of resources and information amid the pandemic is reminiscent of the collective learning during the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The second word in the hashtag, she hopes, is a prediction of future Pride celebrations.
“Hopefully this experience will bring us together, and some solidarity will be found during this time and that our community will become stronger for it,” Bortruex said. “The optimist in me wants to believe in the ‘we’ part, but right now I just really believe in the ‘still’ part.”
Sammi Bradley, a rising senior at AU, holds similar hope for change in Pride celebrations. When looking at the Capital Pride website, there’s a greater conversation around inclusion and honoring diverse experiences, Bradley said. On social media, he is seeing more conversation around income inequality for trans folks in D.C.
“Even though D.C. is kind of known for having a big gay community and having all of these organizations around, there is still a serious inequality,” he said. “In #StillWe, it’s people trying to raise awareness around that even the most progressive cities still have their issues.”
Another issue that Bradley sees being addressed, this year, is the commodification of Pride Month. According to Bradley, the cancellation of in-person Pride events has seemingly deterred big corporations from just “putting a rainbow on [their] logo,” which he feels is a performative act.
Bortruex, on the other hand, worries about smaller LGBTQ organizations that rely on Pride for revenue. One way that she combats this is by donating — some of her favorite organizations to contribute to are the DC Center, Casa Ruby and the DC Area Transmasculine Society.
This year’s #StillWe theme also acknowledges the current, international Black Lives Matter movement. The first sentence on Capital Pride’s #StillWe Pride page notes the organization’s commitment to “uplift this profound movement to affirm that [Black] lives matter.”
“Black Lives Matter is so important to the LGBT community because, even if you just look throughout history, Black trans women have always been at the front of the moment,” Bradley said.
Bradley said that he’s celebrating Pride month by sharing resources among his LGBTQ friends, as well as reading about the accomplishments of trans people like Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans activist known for her involvement in the Stonewall Riots.
Bortruex said that the Black Lives Matter movement is an important reason to uplift Black and brown LGBTQ people this year, but Pride Month should always be used to celebrate their achievements and identities.
“For too long Pride has been a little too corporate, a little too whitewashed,” she said.
Above all, Bradley and Bortruex are hopeful that #StillWe and its message will create a more inclusive Pride for years to come. Bortruex is looking forward to a more diverse experience that benefits all members of the LGBTQ community.
“Pride is also a very ableist experience. Maybe when we kick Pride off the streets it will help people think more thoughtfully of how we can include people who are unable to access Pride on the street level,” Bortruex said. “Maybe Pride can become a better Pride after this.”