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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a new normal on everyone, including the LGBTQ+ community. Best-selling author, educator, and LGBTQ+ ally, Dr. Brene’ Brown points out that as humans we crave connection and belonging, which has been difficult to find during the pandemic. Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, I understand the importance of human connection and how devastating it can be when it’s lost, as some of us lose our friends and families when we come out and share our gender identity or sexual orientation. For many LGBTQ+ folks, maintaining existing connections may no longer be an option, so they form new families within their community, filled with people who support them.

While living through COVID, “connection” has turned into waving from the car and saying “hi” from the end of the driveway. We’re having regular online video chats with our families, both far and wide. Online meetings and calls have become the new norm, so much so that even our trips to the doctor are being done through phone calls and video chats.

This new “socially distanced” way of connecting has changed so much of our lives, but it hasn’t dampened our spirits. June is Pride Month and, while our celebrations have looked very different this year, Pride did not stop or disappear because we couldn’t physically get together in a park or venue.

Across Illinois, activists held Pride parades from their cars, decorated in rainbows and unicorns, socially distanced while still celebrating and connecting with others. Other organizations have honored LGBTQ legends with online Pride parties.

In many communities, like Bloomington-Normal, the LGBTQ+ community worked through an intersectional lens, in recognition of the other public health crisis so many in our community are living through: systemic violence against Black communities. The LGBTQ+ community in BloNo came out in support of a diverse slate of events this year, joining the Bloomington-Normal Black Lives Matter chapter in several peaceful protests, remembering the Pulse Nightclub tragedy with a tribute event, hosting a car-based Pride Parade through Miller Park, and marching alongside youth from Not in Our Schools to bring attention to police brutality against young Black people.

While this “new normal” isn’t something any of us ever would have hoped for, we aren’t letting it slow us down. Unfortunately, these aren’t the first public health crises we’ve lived through. We’ve made great strides in battling HIV and we won’t let these current challenges stop us either because we are strong and resilient despite all that we endure by living our true, authentic selves.

We are taking it to the streets, masks on, socially distanced, and decorated in all the colors of the rainbow. We are here, we are out, and we are proud.

Happy Pride month. 

Tags: LGBTQ, illinois, pride, pride month, pandemic, equity, covid-19, LGBTQ_rights, future