June is World Pride Month, honoring the accomplishments and diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. Every year, millions of people gather at parades, marches, and celebrations around the world to show support for LGBTQ+ people, but Pride is about more than wearing rainbow clothing and waving flags at parade floats.
In every country in the world, LGBTQ+ people face violence and harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Sixty-nine UN member states still have laws criminalizing homosexuality, and six countries legally apply the death penalty for people convicted of participating in consensual, same-sex sexual acts, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA).
Because of stigma and discrimination, LGBTQ+ rights are in a precarious state, subject to the whims of homophobic government leaders and institutions. A group of lawmakers in Ghana — where same-sex sexual acts are considered illegal under the country’s penal code — announced plans to introduce a bill to criminalize LGBTQ+ advocacy in March.
In the United States, 2021 is considered the worst year in history for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation as a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been enacted into law, according to Human Rights Watch — and we’re only six months in. A majority of these bills target transgender youth specifically, setting a dangerous precedent for the future of LGBTQ+ rights in the US.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced further challenges to the LGBTQ+ community. According to global LGBTQ+ human rights organization and Global Citizen partner OutRight Action International, LGBTQ+ people have been overlooked by COVID-19 relief efforts. At a time when people around the world were encouraged to stay home to stop the spread of the virus, members of the LGBTQ+ community were vulnerable to harassment and discrimination due to loss of income, housing, health care, and food access.
“We saw LGBTIQ people going hungry from the very early days, often finding themselves in situations of homelessness, and that wasn’t a huge surprise,” Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight, told Global Citizen in May. “We were overrepresented among those living in poverty before the pandemic, and because of discrimination in the labor market, we’re also overrepresented among informal labor market jobs. Those were some of the first places where jobs were paused or completely eliminated.”
To honor LGBTQ+ people and speak out against the injustices occurring worldwide, OutRight has launched its second annual Pride With a Purpose campaign. The campaign challenges the LGBTQ+ community and its allies to take their advocacy to a new level.
This June, uplift the LGBTQ+ community around the world with these five ways of celebrating Pride with a purpose.
1. Show support for LGBTQ+ people and organizations.
One of the biggest challenges for LGBTQ+ organizations this past year has been their inability to reach and provide for the needs of LGBTQ+ people because of the pandemic’s economic burden.
“In 2019, we organized 40 small events, workshops, and gatherings [for LGBTQ+ people] in Vietnam,” Linh Ngo, director of the ICS Center for the LGBTI+ community in Vietnam, told Global Citizen. “In 2020, we couldn’t have any events; only individual visitors, researchers, or small interviews. So we experienced a gap in being able to bring the community together.”
ICS Center was awarded a grant from OutRight last year as part of the organization’s COVID-19 emergency relief program, which provides vital funding to LGBTQ+ groups around the world who are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. In countries where LGBTQ+ people are targeted by the government or law enforcement officers, safe spaces are especially vital for queer people to share resources and experiences.
This June, celebrate Pride with a purpose by supporting LGBTQ+ centers in your community and around the world. By making donations, purchasing goods from queer businesses, and visiting LGBTQ+ spaces, you can help make sure LGBTQ+ people are able to take part in their community and access lifesaving resources.
2. Advocate for LGBTQ+ rights in your community.
LGBTQ+ people are everywhere, which means that LGBTQ+ discrimination occurs everywhere — at home, at work, and in public spaces. One of the best ways allies can support LGBTQ+ people is by speaking out against situations of injustice.
In addition to attending virtual and socially-distanced Pride events this June, make your voice heard that LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. Contact your government representatives about discriminatory pieces of legislation and take action on issues that affect the LGBTQ+ community.
3. Fight for the human rights of LGBTQ+ people everywhere.
As marginalized communities face compounded challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, governments and institutions have continuously overlooked the needs of the LGBTQ+ community or blatantly discriminated against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We are serving a community that is already discriminated against, already excluded in most activities organized by the government,” Victor Chikalogwe, executive director of the non-profit organization People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression, and Poverty (PASSOP), told Global Citizen. “So we knew COVID-19 was going to be a problem.”
PASSOP was awarded a grant from OutRight last year because of its efforts working with the population of LGBTQ+ immigrants and refugees in South Africa. Throughout the pandemic, PASSOP has acted as a resource for LGBTQ+ people to access food, shelter, and PPE when they had nowhere else to turn.
“The South African government had established funds and grants for underprivileged people, but most of the refugees and asylum seekers were not included,” Chikalogwe said. “[The government] never said they were not including them, but their system requires people to use their government ID number, which asylum seekers do not always have.”
Chikalogwe added: “Before COVID-19, we had about 200 LGBTQ+ refugees we were supporting. But during COVID-19, when businesses are closing and firing people, the number of people we had to support increased.”
In addition to making donations and supporting LGBTQ+ organizations around the world, Chikalogwe said that Global Citizens can continue speaking out against instances of discrimination to hold world leaders accountable.
“People from across the world can continue supporting us by speaking about the issues happening in South Africa, which is why it is very important for us to document and share [instances of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people] so people know what is hapening on the ground,” Chikalogwe said.
4. Learn about the history of Pride and the challenges LGBTQ+ people face globally.
The World Pride Month celebrations and marches that take place today originated in 1969 through the Stonewall Riots, a series of protests that took place in New York against police harassment and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. While Pride marches take place in many cities across the world, there are still areas where LGBTQ+ demonstrations are banned, and many more places where LGBTQ+ people are not provided with equal rights.
Pride celebrations are a hallmark of the queer community and a way for allies to show their support for LGBTQ+ people. COVID-19 has threatened the ability of organizations and supporters to celebrate Pride month, especially as many countries around the world are unable to access COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate their populations.
“Every Pride is always a special event for the community, everywhere around the world,” Linh Ngo said. “So losing that atmosphere is not the same for the community.”
It is important to remember the roots of Pride and celebrate the work of LGBTQ+ activists who are at the forefront of ensuring equal rights. In addition, members of the LGBTQ+ community can be part of other marginalized groups and face added layers of discrimination, making it necessary to promote equity and justice for all people when participating in Pride events.
At its core, Pride is a protest to ensure all LGBTQ+ people can live in a world free from violence and discrimination.
5. Donate to OutRight’s COVID-19 Global LGBTIQ Emergency Fund
Last year, OutRight launched the COVID-19 Global LGBTIQ Emergency Fund to support LGBTQ+ people and organizations who were impacted by COVID-19. In order to continue supporting the needs of the LGBTQ+ community, OutRight relies on donations from people and organizations around the world.
So far, the fund has distributed $1 million to 125 organizations in 65 countries, leading OutRight to announce a second call for applications. That call resulted in more than $18 million in requests from nearly 1,500 LGBTQ+ organizations in 111 countries, the majority of applications coming from the African continent.
Over 50% of the applications OutRight received were for emergency food support, with additional requests for shelter and mental health support, particularly for transgender communities.
“Last year, we were supported by OutRight,” Linh Ngo from ICS Center said. “They helped us pay the operation costs of running our office, buying food, and providing support for the transgender community in Vietnam.”
When celebrating Pride with a purpose this year, think about the organizations that support the LGBTQ+ community and how you can help them see through the COVID-19 pandemic.
LGBTQ+ people have fought for years to have equal rights and live without fear of violence and discrimination — their resilience has led to successes around the world. More countries have legalized same-sex relationships and local governments have banned conversion practices, largely due to the increased efforts and representation of LGBTQ+ people.
COVID-19 has threatened this progress, making it more important than ever for people to raise their voices and take action to support the global LGBTQ+ community.
“The number of abuses against LGBTQ+ people increased from the government, from law enforcement,” Chikalogwe, of PASSOP, said. “We knew we needed funding to document the abuses taking place against the LGBTQ+ community during COVID-19. We have to be able to bring these issues to the world. This information can help LGBTQ+ people around the world.”
This year, how are you planning to celebrate, commemorate, protest, and promote Pride with a purpose?