June is Pride month, and with this week’s landmark Supreme Court decision affirming employment rights for LGBTQ individuals, many in the community are finding even more reason to celebrate. But because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Denver’s annual Pride parade had to be canceled this year.
Soren Thomas, executive director of Queer Asterisk Therapeutic Services, admitted that was a disappointment for many.
“(Pride) is our time for visibility and organization, there’s a visceral feeling behind being with so many people celebrating our existence,” said Thomas, who is also a queer and non-binary transgender therapist.
With the pandemic putting in-person gatherings on hold, Queer Asterisk is stepping up efforts to make sure those in the LGBTQ community can still find support and make connections with others.
“These communities — we already have heightened incidents of anxiety, depression, suicidality,” said Chris Aguilar-Garcia, director of operations for Queer Asterisk.
Thomas added that those who have not come out to their families or roommates face additional concerns.
“Lots of queer folks don’t have safe homes to be in,” said Thomas.
Queer Asterisk is comprised of almost entirely queer and transgender professionals. The nonprofit is providing virtual mental health services and hosting regular virtual conversations, as well as art and writing groups.
While the Pride parade will only happen virtually this year, advocates say this is also a chance to reflect on the origins of the Pride movement. Many see similarities to the current Black Lives Matter protests.
“It was not only a riot that started the modern LGBTQ rights movement, but a riot started by black and brown transgender women, people who are still among the most marginalized in our community,” said Aguilar-Garcia.
There has been progress in the decades since the Stonewall Riots. But the LGBTQ community is still fighting for rights, acceptance and visibility. Thomas hopes those feeling isolated right now know they’re not alone.
“What we’ve been encouraging folks to come back to is to remember that pride can’t be taken away from us. It’s in our hearts, it’s something we can live every day," Thomas said.