Some like it hot! I certainly do. I love the overbearing heat of the Caribbean, and, when accompanied by a few of my favorite people on the planet, the experience is a recipe for vibrant and colorful conversations on Bavaro Beach in the Dominican Republic.
My tribe’s time spent in the DR is an annual celebration of brotherhood. It gives birth to formidable bonds shaped by a common thread of our life experiences. As we coast through Pride month while quarantined inside thanks to Covid-19, my band of brothers, along with many others with canceled getaways, are having to redefine what Pride means to us now.
Most of us are navigating through a new normal of mandatory masks in public spaces, and for some, a lazy attempt at social distancing. All elements that make it challenging for ”prides” and circuit parties ever to resemble what we’ve always known them to be. As popular same gender loving events such as Sizzle Miami, DC, and Atlanta Black pride announced their cancellations for 2020, many wondered how are black SGL men finding connection in such turbulent times of health scares and social unrest?
Social media, often characterized as the purveyor of idle minds, has become the means to an end when it comes to keeping in contact with friends. Through outlets like Facebook, Zoom, and Instagram live, we get to redefine what pride can look like without all of the rainbow bells and whistles.
We are more than just elaborate theme parties, rooftop brunch soirees, and house parties but rather a connection built off of the need for a family outside of our own. Our new normal of virtual connection has proven to be a saving grace for men quarantining while gay.
The celebrations of pride, whether it be big or small, now take on a different tone.
TikTok, and Don’t rush challenges allowed us to keep our lighthearted nature while exercising our creative flair. Instagram #ThrowbackThursday photos warranted digging up old vacation photos with the crew. A reminder that our time together creating memories used to be in person and included beach chairs and Hennessy margaritas.
Until we can physically clink glasses in a toast to friendship, we can celebrate the recent Supreme Court ruling, which states the 1964 Civil Rights Act includes federal protections in the workplace for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. As we tip our hats to the historical significance of such a moment, black men and women under that new umbrella of protection are also still fighting for our blackness to matter.
The untimely death of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and Breonna Taylor is yet more proof that despite how educated we are, or while doing random acts such as sleeping while black, it can still get us killed. As protests erupt worldwide, showing a face of solidarity for equality (for all black lives) in the eyes of the law, pride, like justice, had to be reimagined for many of us tinkering between our support for who we love and the plight of our existence due to the color of our skin.
We are now merely living differently, and many of us are doing things for the very first time, like cooking or finally getting around to organizing that junk drawer. The celebrations of pride, whether it be big or small, now take on a different tone. Where we previously had the luxury of forgetting the reason for the season is a result of the courage of Marsha P. Johnson to survive without harassment, it’s painfully evident today that the same courage and acts of revolution are needed now.
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Two Black trans women—Dominique Rem’mie Fells (left) and Riah Milton (right) were murdered last week. You cannot celebrate Pride, you cannot say Black Lives Matter and leave Black Trans Women out of the conversation. You cannot say you care about Black Lives and not support, center, and interrogate the leadership, activism, politics, and lives of Black Trans Women and the Black Trans Community writ-large. Say Dominique and Riah’s names. Say Nina Pop and Tony McDade’s name. Say the name of Layleen Polanco. Say the name of Ashanti Carmon. Say Marsha P. Johnson’s name. SAY THEIR NAMES. • • • • Please support Black trans-led organizations: @mpjinstitute, @nojusticenopride, @theokraproject, @forthegworls, @blacktranstravelfund. • • • 📸: Photo Credit: “Dominique Fells, Riah Milton: 2 Black Trans Women Killed This Week” by Donald Padgett for @outmagazine. • • • • • #blackwomenradicals #dominiquefells #riahmilton #ninapop #tonymcdade #layleenpolanco #ashanticarmon #blacktranswomenmatter #blacktranswomenlivesmatter #blacktranscommunitymatters #blacktranslivesmatter
The parties can wait. We’ve got work to do. We have to take care of ourselves and remain healthy for those who matter the most. I’m sure at some point in the not so distant future, we’ll have a new normal to exist in with less social distancing and hopefully, more radical ideas of what connection truly means. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we have to be ready to adapt to any changes that challenge the very idea of who we think we are.
I miss my conversations with the fellas on the beach. Still, if the experience of the world today forces a new idea of pride based on voices demanding justice and equality across the intersection of race and sexuality, I’m okay with that.