June 27, 2020
For Pride 2018 I wrote about how I had found a home in public relations and in being a gay man. How much I loved my work but also my community and being a part of something different. All of that still rings true, and always will, but this year in a different way.
We’re facing unprecedented times due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. But the LGBTQ+ community has faced adversity just like this before. We know what it’s like to lose millions due to a pandemic.
AIDS hit the US in the 1980s but was largely ignored by the US government. It took a year before Ronald Reagan publicly uttered the word “AIDS” in 1985, when over 12,000 Americans had died, and the virus had begun to spread swiftly through hemophiliac populations and injection drug users.
By 1995, AIDS was the single greatest killer of men ages 25-44 in America and millions more around the world were infected. And today, according to UNAIDS, 32.0 million [23.6 million–43.8 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.
These numbers are overwhelming. They remind me of the numbers we now see on the news every day as the COVID-19 death toll rises. They also highlight the need for vaccine research and for a government that takes quick action that is backed by facts to protect its citizens and ensure that lives aren’t lost due to ignorance.
But what they also highlight is how communities rise after facing hardship. Did the LGBTQ+ community let HIV/AIDS stop them from getting equal rights? No. Did New York City crumble after the attack on the World Trade Center? No. Did the U.S. let the economy continue to crash after the 2008 financial crisis? No.
We as a country are strong. We as an LBGTQ+ community are strong. We look adversity dead in the eye and conquer it to the best of our ability. As Pride 2020 kicks off we must not let the fact that pride parades are cancelled and bars and restaurants are closed get us down or diminish our pride. We must be prouder than we’ve ever been. Pride, community, love and kindness will ensure we come back from this crisis stronger than before.
Be proud. Be different. Work hard. Love yourself.