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Many Pride Celebrations Still Virtual, With a Dash of In-Person Festivities

Tune in to drag queen storytime, party in Key West or eat ice cream for a cause

Two men holding a rainbow flag, taking a picture
FG Trade/Getty Images

June marks the beginning of Pride Month, a full 30 days dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ identity, equality and the ongoing fight for queer rights. Rainbows adorn storefronts and doorways across major cities and small towns, and while many longtime Pride parades may look different in the wake of the pandemic, there will be plenty of celebrations this June, with many more postponed and promising to reschedule come fall.

"Last year, we didn't get Pride,” says 51-year-old Susan Esco, who plans to celebrate this year in a big way. She'll enjoy festivities in her newly adopted home of Missoula, Montana, and with family in Spokane, Washington. And she loves attending the annual Pride boat cruise on Lake Coeur D'Alene in nearby Idaho. Later in June, she's traveling to Colorado, and she hopes to find more Pride activities farther west as well.

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Previously Esco has attended Pride celebrations only as a fervent ally. But after coming out last year and celebrating 2020 Pride with a personal photoshoot with her partner, she's excited to be with other out LGBTQ+ folks at this year's celebrations. “It's really important to bring the community back together,” Esco says. “Everything's been so distanced, and there are so many divisions right now. ... We all need to support each other."

Two women jumping in the air
Susan Esco (right), with her partner Tina Waggoner, came out last year and is looking forward to celebrating Pride month.
Courtesy Katie Hartwig

Part of what Esco loves about attending Pride is “being around other people who have compassion for everyone, who may have walked your journey,” she says. As a newly out adult, she's already felt discomfort around peers and neighbors when they learn she's in a relationship with another woman. But she's not willing to hide her sexuality.

"I don't have time to lie. I want to find people who accept me as I am,” she says. “It's important for everybody, regardless of who you love, to have this sense of belonging somewhere.”

Ready to celebrate Pride around America? Here are some in-person and virtual events to participate in.

Honoring LGBTQ+ elders

The Not Another Second interactive art exhibit tells the story of 12 diverse LGBTQ+ seniors who began living their true, authentic selves later in their lives. The exhibit incorporates video and sound via augmented reality, allowing viewers to fully immerse themselves in the vibrant lives of these elders, who managed to stay resilient in the face of discrimination. The exhibit is currently located within The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn, New York, a luxury senior living community. Free public and socially distanced viewings take place every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Reservations can be secured online. An online component and a portrait book that tell other compelling stories of LGBTQ+ seniors are accessible to those who can't see the exhibit in person.

Vacation in Key West

Florida's Key West 2021 Pride festivities will take place June 2-6, with events ranging from pool parties to drag shows to a street fair on Duval Street, plus dance nights, brunches and more. The week will kick off with a gala at the 1129 Fleming St. resort from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 2, with complimentary Stoli cocktails, champagne and hors d'oeuvres. The Pride Street Fair will be held June 5 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pride events wrap up with the beloved Key West Tea Dance. All Key West Pride venue hosts will provide hand sanitizer and require that attendees wear masks for entry and whenever they're not seated in a bar or restaurant.

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With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, many major Pride events are either postponed until later this year or rolling out 2021-friendly versions of annual events. For example, the NYC Pride March, now in its 50th year, will feature a special broadcast and then a virtual event on June 27, with local businesses and pop-ups reimagining the outdoor float experience. The New York City PrideFest outdoor street fair will take place simultaneously, with safety protocols in place.

Virtual Pride events abound

The Wall Las Memorias Project is hosting virtual events throughout June to celebrate Pride. The series kicks off with a “Name that Queer Cult Classic” trivia night on June 1, followed by a virtual potluck and a screening of HBO's Legendary, a ballroom competition, on June 10. More Zoom events include a queer poetry slam, with virtual participants invited to read; a screening of the queer web series Handsome; and a trans pride prom on June 30, with guests invited to dress up and be the authentic selves they may not have shared in high school.

Tune in on June 4 at 8 a.m. ET to watch Noah's Arc: The ‘Rona Chronicles, a discussion of the lasting power of the Logo series Noah's Arc, which premiered in 2005 and featured Black queer characters. The discussion, presented by AARP, will feature creator Patrik-Ian Polk and series lead Darryl Stephens, who will talk about the impact of the show, its storylines and the 2020 cast reunion episode. The event will be part of The Outfronts, a five-day digital festival including panels and LGBTQ entertainment running from June 4-8.

Finally, catch up on this fireside chat featuring actor Doug Spearman and producer and actor Nathan Hale Williams, who discuss, film, working in Hollywood and aging. Sponsored by AARP, this Outfest Fusion discussion touches on how to achieve longevity in a youth-centric business.

Learn to vogue at home

Fitness buffs can get in shape and celebrate pride on June 25 at 2 p.m. ET, with a 90-minute YouTube workout class led by Basit Shittu, 305 Fitness instructor and MTV star, followed by a voguing tutorial from House of Extravaganza. All proceeds will benefit Legacy BQPC, a creative collective focused on supporting Black queer voices.

All month long, 305 Fitness will be donating a portion of proceeds from all in-person classes nationwide (over 1,000 locations) to Legacy BQPC and BTFA Collective, which supports Black trans femme artists. And those in New York City can see 305 Fitness’ studio transformed into a gallery space featuring works by queer artists. Instructors will be dedicating classes throughout the month to LGBTQ+ figures who inspire them to live unapologetically.

Order rainbow ice cream and give back

If celebrating Pride means indulging in a special pint of ice cream on the couch, some LGBTQ+-aligned brands are here to help. Double Rainbow Ice Cream, a San Francisco staple since the 1970s, will be donating a percentage of its June sales to San Fran Gay Pride. Organic, plant-based, and custard-style ice cream is all available for shipping in Ultra Chocolate, Sea Salt Caramel and many more flavors. McConnell's Fine Ice Creams has also created a Sprinkled with Pride flavor: strawberry ice cream with chunks of house-made shortcake, a swirl of house-made strawberry jam, and heaps of rainbow sprinkles. A portion of the proceeds from every scoop and pint sold (nationwide delivery is available) will be donated to the Pacific Pride Foundation.

Celebrations for the whole family

The beloved Drag Queen Story Hour NYC brings drag performers to read stories to children in libraries, schools, bookstores, museums and more, with virtual livestreams opening up the experience to anyone who wants to tune in. Check out the online event calendar throughout the month, with highlights including a June 9 noon ET story hour with Cholula Lemon (watch live: in Spanish and English and a June 15 4 p.m. ET story hour with Miz Jade (watch live: New York locals can also visit outdoor story hours, including 11 a.m. ET sessions on June 26 and 27 at Four Freedoms State Park on Roosevelt Island

And if you happen to be in the New Orleans area, take the family to historic estate Longue Vue House and Gardens for a Pride Family Equality Day event that will feature drag queen story time as well as performances, fan decorating and a children's march. The event is free, but reservations are required and capacity is limited.