Pride Month in June honors the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Pride is a time to celebrate who you are and who you love. It is time to recognize how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. It is time to hold your sweetheart’s hand without fear. It is a time to dress in a way that feels true to you with nothing holding you back. It is a time to gather together and remember those that have come before and those we have lost. It is a time for allies to cheer and take action. It is rainbows and parties and art. And it is difficult conversations, protests, unlearning harmful habits, and recognizing the work that is needed so everyone can be safe, happy and welcome.
We at Identity are also figuring out how to do better. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the annual Anchorage Pride Festival and Pride Parade will not take place in 2021. Identity has also paused planning of its other official Anchorage Pride events at this time to ensure this program and the organization are honoring and validating Alaska's diverse LGBTQ+ communities. The initial theme for Anchorage Pride (#Conqueered) was racist and caused harm. Responses to people who brought up the issues with the theme caused additional harm. At a community listening session, people spoke how Anchorage Pride and Identity events have not always been welcoming to them. In particular, Black, Indigneous and people of color expressed a need for change. Identity is taking this time to learn, grow and do better.
Making sure that BIPOC people have seats at the table and are uplifted and supported at all Pride and Identity events is vital. Queer and transgender people of color in Alaska experience multi-layered oppression and stressors, increasing health disparaties and decreasing access. Research suggests that Indigenous LGBTQ+ youth are 2.5 times more likely than non-Indigenous LGBTQ+ youth to attempt suicide. Violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women.
Queer liberation is not possible without addressing a wide array of systemic oppressions, including white supremacy, capitalism and ableism.
I’m sorry for the harm that was caused with the initial Anchorage Pride theme and the responses to the reactions of that harm. Thank you to those that have spoken up and contributed to making Identity and Anchorage Pride better. Thank you to the volunteers, donors, board members and staff that ensure that the positive and life-saving work continues as we address systemic challenges.
Pride isn’t cancelled. The LGBTQ+ community always deserves to be celebrated, festival or not. LGBTQ+ people are resilient and beautiful. While Anchorage Pride may not be hosting events this summer, there are still several community-led opportunities, including the Rainbow Run which is a fundraiser for Identity. For a list of various Pride events, visit anchoragepride.org/events.
I invite you to celebrate and advance the LGBTQ+ community each and every month. Actions you can take include volunteering, donating, attending LGBTQ+ events, making brave spaces for people to be their whole selves, learning about sexual orientations and gender identities, and vocalizing support for the LGBTQ+ protections and against anti-LGBTQ legislation. For instance, the Equality Act would provide federal nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community. Fifty percent of LGBTQ+ people live in states that still lack comprehensive statewide laws, including Alaska. This patchwork of protections leaves too many people behind. Currently with the US Senate, the Equality Act would help all LGBTQ+ Alaskans live, work, and access public spaces free from discrimination, no matter what city or state they call home.
Being an ally is more than liking the LGBTQ+ community -- and you can be an ally to others within the community. Think of allyship as a verb. What are you doing to make the world a safer, more welcoming place for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and gender communities, including Black, Indigenous and people of color? How are you showing up?
If you need more ideas, please contact us at Identity! Identity’s year-round programming and services include peer support groups, events, presentations, advocacy, and resource navigation. Identity Health Clinic is also Alaska’s only nonprofit LGBTQ-focused clinic, offering sexuality-affirming and gender-affirming health care.
Happy Pride! Here’s to equality, justice and a time when we can gather, work and live as our true selves everywhere, all year long.