Since 1981, the streets of Columbus, Ohio, have been filled with thousands of people during the month of June for the annual Columbus Pride Parade and Festival. In a starking contrast this June, they’ll be vacant.
Stonewall Columbus posted on its Facebook page April 8 that the Columbus Pride Parade and Festival will be postponed to Oct. 3 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Although the event has moved to a later date, many members of Ohio State’s LGBTQ community are still using the month of June to celebrate and express their pride.
For Jeff Perkins, the multicultural center’s LGBTQ intercultural specialist and Ohio State’s student LGBTQ specialist, Pride Month is a time to reflect on the history of his queer ancestors and to honor the people who fought for his role to be possible at the university.
“I’m most proud of the history that we come from and the history we continue to build,” Perkins said. “That’s what makes me want to support LGBTQ students and just young people in general, because somebody paved the way for me, and I want to pave the way for somebody else too.”
Last year, Perkins organized a bus for the Ohio State LGBTQ community attending Columbus Stonewall Pride — which he refers to as Buckeye Pride — handled communications from academic departments and distributed Buckeye Pride T-shirts for the university.
Queer organizations have postponed Pride themed events to October because it’s national LGBTQ History Month, according to the Stonewall Pride website. As social distancing protocols continue and large public gatherings are discouraged, Perkins said he advises Buckeye Pride to continue to celebrate on their own and use the power of social media to build queer community.
“We as a community have had to not only make our own spaces but we’ve also had to be resources for each other. I think the lessons that come with that is really understanding the power of community care and taking care of each other,” Perkins said.
Lena Tenney, the coordinator of public engagement at Ohio State’s Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and a board member of Trans Ohio, said for them, celebrating Pride is much more about thanking their queer mentors who helped them realize who they are and being thankful to be living an authentic life.
“Honestly, I like to use Pride Month to be a little more intentional about remembering and better understanding history of our community and how we’ve gotten to where we are,” Tenney said. “Quite frankly, coming out saved my life.”
Under normal circumstances, Tenney said they’d have gone to the Columbus community Pride celebration.
“You can’t know your history thoughtlessly,” Tenney said. “It’s easy for folks in my generation and for students at OSU maybe to not have known that history and to kind of take it for granted and not know the trailblazers and what they really sacrificed for folks.”