Amelia Cockerham, ArtSci ’22, is used to spending Pride Month surrounded by other people.
“Normally, I’d go to parades and stuff like that,” she said in an interview with The Journal.
Now, as Canada continues grappling with COVID-19, her celebration looks a bit different.
“This year I’m more taking time to myself.” Cockerham said. “I’m using Pride almost as a recharge from the year that we’ve had.”
While Queen’s student organizations run events that celebrate queer identities all year round, Pride Month is an important time of year for the Queen’s queer community.
Although that celebration might look somewhat different this year, the core of Pride Month remains the same—it’s a designated time when queer folks can take the time to celebrate who they are while remembering those who came before them.
Oliver Elsdon, Sci ’22, is using media and hobbies to celebrate this year, particularly queer music.
Elsdon is also celebrating by spending their time baking.
“I’ve been working my way up. I think I’m going to do a rainbow cake. I need a little bit of practice before I can get there.”
Evelyn Poole, ArtSci ’21, has also been using Instagram to celebrate Pride.
“When the last lockdown was announced I was really not in a great place […] I ended up making this lesbian pride flag blob art, and every blob was a different queer-coded or lesbian-coded thing. Then I noticed that Pride Month was right around the corner.”
Poole was motivated to create more art inspired by queer identities, and created an Instagram account where she could showcase her art. The page, @yourfriendlylocalqueer, is inspired by not only her own experiences but by other queer-identifying people she has been speaking to.
“Over the course of the past few months I’ve had phone calls with a bunch of different queer-identifying people that I know, and chatting with them about their experiences and what they want to see represented in media.” Poole said.
From those conversations, Poole created digital art pieces featuring queer affirmations and other celebratory content.
Social media has become a huge part of remotely celebrating Pride, with queer student organizations using their platforms to help students celebrate.
Cockerham’s recharge is fueled by the comfort of their favourite pieces of queer media.
“Pride’s a specific time of the year where I can dedicate my time and effort to celebrating my queerness. It’s a designated time for queer people to recognize themselves and be free.”
Cockerham is one of the co-chairs of the Education on Queer Issues Project (EQuIP), a group that works towards creating a safe environment for queer students on campus. From September to May, EQuIP organizes a number of events like lectures, book clubs, and movie screenings.
Although students aren’t on campus right now, EQuIP’s Co-Chairs are using Pride to implement “Feature Fridays” on EQuIP’s social media accounts.
“We’ll post on Fridays different queer artists, performers, musicians, or even films and stuff.” Cockerham explained.
“We’ve tried to include them from the Queen’s community and the Kingston community, but really just any different queer creators we can bring awareness to.”
Elsdon is the incoming vice-president of Operations at Queen’s EngiQueers, a club that aims to provide a safe and accepting environment for queer students studying engineering.
To help students celebrate Pride remotely, the EngiQueers social media pages are sharing recommendations on queer media to enjoy this June.
“We’re going to be posting some suggestions on our members’ favourite queer books or whatever else to help people remotely celebrate Pride,” Elsdon said.
All three students interviewed highlighted that it is important to remember how Pride began. While it’s a time for celebration, it’s also a time for remembrance and recognition.
“To me, Pride means a chance to celebrate but also recognize the history and the struggle that queer people have faced throughout history. Although Pride is celebratory it’s important to remember that’s not how it started.” Cockerham said.
“We’re celebrating Pride as we do as an anniversary of the Stonewall riots.” Elsdon added. “The politics of it and the activism of it is a big part along with the community and the love.”
The Stonewall riots are named for the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City where queer people rioted in protest in June of 1969 after patrons of the bar were taken into custody by the New York Police Department.
The Stonewall riots are an important part of queer history. Remembering and recognizing the activists and leaders, like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who fought for queer liberation decades ago is still a key part of Pride celebrations.
“The reason we celebrate Pride now is because of the work that trans women of colour and Black trans women have done before us,” Poole said.
“[It’s about] remembering why we celebrate or why we feel proud the way we do now and that we don’t have to hide as much as generations before us might have had to. Pride is also about remembering why we are allowed to take up space and honouring the people who have done work before us, and who continue to do really important work.”
For Elsdon, Pride is celebration of love and acceptance in the queer community. Pride parades have a special place in their heart.
“I was probably around 15 or so and I wasn’t out at the time.” Elsdon said about their first Pride parade. “I was going as a volunteer for the Ottawa public libraries float. I grew up in sort of sheltered area, so I didn’t see a lot of queer folks.”
“Seeing that were so many people, that was really wonderful that there was a community, something larger than just myself.”
Pride parades have become an important celebration for many queer people, with the tradition going back to the 1970s in Canada. Kingston has held Pride parades for over 30 years, with 2019’s parade seeing the largest turnout the city ever recorded—over 450 people marched.
“It helped me as a young person questioning myself and my identity to really feel comfortable coming forward knowing that so many people have the same experiences as me and are happy and celebrating. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience.”
Some of Cockerham’s fondest Pride memories also involve the annual parades. Their favorite was when they took their friend to her first Pride.
“Seeing her reaction to the sense of community and having her first parade after coming out was really great,” they said. “Just getting to spend time with friends and loved ones and seeing the parades is always a really great time and experience.”
As most of Canada is still operating under COVID-19 gathering restrictions, normal in-person events like parades and drag shows have been put on pause for the second year in a row.
“I’ve actually never been to a Pride parade. It’s really sad.” Poole said.
Though Poole attended a few on-campus events pre-pandemic—like Queer Prom and Get Real’s biannual drag show—the pandemic has interfered with the ability to attend in-person events.
“I came out publicly only last year, but nothing has happened since then.”
Luckily, Pride events aren’t exclusive to June. Queen’s students can look forward to Kingston’s annual Pride parade and festival, which is scheduled this year for Sept. 25-26. As well, there are several student organizations like EQuIP and EngiQueers that plan events and make space for queer students during the academic year.
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