The month of June is widely celebrated among LGBTQIA+ communities as Pride month and, during festivities this year, staying connected has become more important than ever.
Sydney Pride Festival 2020 begins later tonight from 6:30pm (4:30pm WA time). The free event kicks off on the Sydney Pride Facebook page before the Sydney Pride Festival website goes live afterwards.
Festival Coordinator Glenn Hansen says it is especially important this year for LGBTQIA+ communities to be able to connect and support each other during such a difficult time.
“Normally the Pride Festival has approximately 100 events in and around Sydney. There are probably around 300 Pride Events around the world that have been cancelled because of COVID-19 and we were planning to cancel as well,” he says.
“But then when we saw the amazing work that everyone has been doing streaming online with entertainment and education we thought, why don’t we take Sydney Pride Festival and make it a love stream and basically promote everything that people have been doing on the web.”
Mr Hansen says the situation presented an opportunity to make Pride special by giving people something to watch from home but still feel like they are part of it.
“I think it’s especially important right now, with the what’s happening overseas [Black Lives Matter protests] and the [similarities] to the Stonewall Riots. It was coloured trans-women, street people and everyone involved that made the gay movement happen,” he says.
“It’s important that you’re not alone and that we are together and we do have such a wonderful rainbow community. We have come a long way with marriage equality but there’s still so much left to do until total equality happens for all people.”
Equality Australia Legal Director Ghassan Kassisieh agrees it is an important time to for members of LGBTQIA+ communities to reflect on the importance of community and connection.
“[These issues] are being exacerbated by the restrictions that have been put in place because of COVID-19 – although for good reason,” he says.
“[Pride Month] provides an important platform for us to share our stories together and also provide support to each other,” he says.
“We had over 2600 LGBTIQ+ people respond to our survey [LGBTIQ+ Communities and COVID-19] on the impacts COVID-19 is having on them.
“We are seeing people who are stuck at home with unsupportive family members, people who are experiencing exacerbation of issues such as anxiety and depression, isolation and loneliness, people who have lost their jobs and had to move houses or back in with parents who don’t affirm their identities.”
Mr Kassisieh says LGBTI people are more likely to experience higher rates of depression, higher rates of anxiety and higher rates of suicidality.
“There hasn’t been an adequate response, particularly from the government in regards to funding, to ensure that services are available to meet those increased needs.”
Here in WA, Curtin University LGBTIQ Researcher and activist Dr Misty Farquhar has recently joined a group which is lobbying the WA government to put money towards the LGBTI health strategy.
“In August last year, the government issued a LGBTI health strategy and since delivering that document nothing has happened, so a group of us within the community have been advocating the government to put some money into that,” they say.
“I think one of the problems that we are finding is because of COVID-19, it’s not being prioritised but in actual fact, because of COVID-19 it should be prioritised.”
Dr Farquhar also outlined the importance of Pride Month, saying it was an opportunity for people to be more visible to others than they are on the day to day and show they are proud of it.
“More importantly, our visibility means people who aren’t able to be visible yet or haven’t come to terms with their identity yet can see other people like them reflected,” they say.
The Sydney Gay Pride Festival 2020 includes information on support services for LGBTQIA+ community members.
Mr Hanson says he hopes the festival will help people who may be struggling.
“That’s what we are hoping to do with Pride this year is also having a place where people can reach out if they need help,” he says.
“And if anyone wants to get involved or they have an event on, all they have to do is send us an email. It’s not too late to be involved. We want to include anyone that wants to be included.”
Sydney Gay Pride Festival 2020 kicks off tonight from 6:30pm (4:30pm WA time). All events are free and will begin on the Sydney Pride Facebook page with guest speakers and the theme song for this year’s Pride.
For more information or to get involved with the event, click here.