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Pride in the pandemic – what to look out for and how to show your support in a largely virtual event


Christelle Gebhardt at the Pride Hub on Dublin’s Duke Street. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Christelle Gebhardt at the Pride Hub on Dublin’s Duke Street. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Christelle Gebhardt at the Pride Hub on Dublin’s Duke Street. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Pride month has officially kicked off across the country. More than 60,000 people attended the last Pride parade in Dublin back in June 2019, filling O’Connell Street with rainbow flags and colours. While the same won’t happen this year, event organisers have said: “We know we will never be able to replicate a real parade – but that doesn’t mean we stop trying.”

Following last year’s cancellation, Pride 2021 will run mostly virtually, with online events planned throughout the month of June, leading up to the grand finale of the virtual parade on June 28 which will be streamed live from Dublin’s Mansion House.

“Feeling pride in yourself is always something to be embraced,” says Jamie Kenny, administration and community manger for Dublin Pride. Mr Kenny is encouraging people to get involved and send in videos of Pride celebrations from home to be streamed online on the big day.

A small number of in-person events will run in Dublin, including exhibitions at Filmbase in Temple Bar and St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre next week. The Pride Hub and Shop on Duke Street will be open throughout the month.

Celebrating his 20th Pride this year, Mr Kenny says he has seen a huge difference in the past 20 years in Ireland with younger people feeling more “confident and able to embrace themselves”.

“We haven’t always had a history in Ireland of celebrating marginalised groups. We did only decriminalise homosexuality in 1993 and we have thankfully made a lot of progress since then,” he said.

He says Pride is especially important to younger people, as it opens doors to those who may feel embarrassed, nervous, or ashamed, and gives people the opportunity to talk and meet.

“There’s a lot of fear, especially when you’re younger – but when you hit O’Connell Street during a Pride parade and there are hundreds of thousands of people on the street cheering and embracing who you are, that’s really, really validating.

“For so many people, and especially people who come on their own or have recently come out, Pride is where they meet people and Pride is where they get chatting to people – for so many people, that’s where they find their tribe or their friends.”

In recent years, he says, many people now come on the day with their “straight friends or mothers, fathers or grandparents – modern Ireland now has a lot of families of two fathers or two mothers”.

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However, he says, that stigma is hard to shake, and it’s important to remember “how much progress we have made, but that doesn’t mean the job is done”.

“Stigma and ignorance are a battle that we can’t shy away from. It’s about holding a mirror up to ourselves, not just in our community but Ireland as a society.”

Hospitality may be reopening for outdoor service but Mr Kenny says the majority of gay bars are “not suitable for outdoor dining – they weren’t designed as that kind of space.

“LGBT spaces have been basically erased during the pandemic,” he says.

In Waterford, Pride of the Déise is kicking off for its second year this weekend with an all-online offering of events, including an International Queer Film Festival, online parade, and livestreamed music from local bands as well as a Berlin-based DJ.

“The real advantage of working online is being able to have access to people that you wouldn’t normally have,” said Debbie O’Rourke, youth co-ordinator with the festival.

When the festival was started last year, a central objective was to create spaces for people in the Waterford LGBT community to meet each other. While it has been difficult to create that feeling of connection virtually both last year and this year, online events create a safe space for those who are not able to attend in person.

“Some people won’t walk into a room where there’s an LGBT event happening. Maybe they’re not ready yet, still in the closet, or living in unsafe atmospheres. But they might turn on a screen and take part in something. That’s a real advantage of things that are streaming on Facebook, that you don’t have to sign up to, you don’t have to put your name down, nobody is going to see you taking part in it,” said Ms O’Rourke.

While online events have their advantages, the “ultimate goal” for Waterford’s Pride festival is to march through the streets in a parade.

“It’s about visibility and being seen. Being able to see people in the community confident and out in a physical parade, you give permission for other people to do the same,” said Ms O’Rourke.

“Pride is our chance to be really visible, to break silence and stigma. When you see the rainbow and people marching on the street, it does start conversation.”

Cork’s Pride Festival takes place from July 24, and a conscious effort has been made to incorporate physical events into the programme.

“I think at this stage there’s a bit of exhaustion from Zoom calls, there’s definitely an appetite for people to be together again. That’s what Prides are about, bringing all members of the community together,” said Kery Mullaly, sponsorships and fundraising co-ordinator for Cork Pride.

“We had two reschedulings last year to try and keep the integrity of our physical events, but ultimately it wasn’t to be and we went fully virtual. For us, there wasn’t an appetite to go fully virtual again this year. We wanted to try and start getting back to normal,” he added.

A hybrid schedule of live and online events will be delivered under the theme ‘Together Apart’.

While one of the central objectives of Cork Pride is to deliver physical events in a “Covid-safe” way, Mr Mullaly highlights the extended reach that online offerings have given them.

“Rural isolation is something that we’ve always looked at, and we try to reach out to the farthest parts of the county and region,” he said.​​​​​​​

“The one positive that’s come out of delivering Cork Pride virtually last year was that it absolutely extended the reach. It massively increased the audience nationally and internationally, and made it more accessible to everybody.”

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