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Neon Pride
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How the LGBTQ+ community in New York has been staying connected

LGBTQ+ New Yorkers tell us how they've been staying in touch with the local scene during these unprecedented times.

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Written by
Will Gleason
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New York has changed drastically over the last few months and that transformation has affected the city's LGBTQ+ community, as well. In the past, bonds could be forged over drinks at a gay bar, in the lobby before a downtown performance, at a Bushwick warehouse party or at any of the city's many queer gatherings. Now, many of that is forced to take place through a computer screen or from at least six feet away.

Like everyone else, New York's LGBTQ+ community has adapted to the new normal—moving gatherings online, connecting over video chat and Zoom and joining the protest sweeping the city calling for systemic change and an end to racial injustice. This Pride month, we checked in with LGBTQ+ New Yorkers we love to see how they're staying connected with staying apart.

RECOMMENDED: See how you can still celebrate Pride Worldwide 2020

Michael R. Jackson

“Pride
Photograph: Joey Stocks

Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright, @thelivingmichaeljackson

I've always been a bit of a loner so I've not necessarily been as connected to the LGBTQ+ community during these pandemic days as I could be but I do have a group of friends who keep me company in a Sondheimian way, which is to say lots of deep talks, long (socially distanced) walks, telephone (and zoom) calls where we gossip about people or watch the mysterious Denise Richards together on Bravo's Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I've always been a fan of the '80s sitcom Designing Women so that was easy to fall back into but I did not know Carly Simon's spectacular 1985 album Spoiled Girl, which has been on heavy rotation ever since I purchased it and has served as useful fodder and musical inspiration for my next musical White Girl In Danger being developed at the Vineyard Theatre.

Phil Stamper

Pride Worldwide
Photograph: Krystal Balzer Photography

Author, @stampepk

I've been so grateful for all the video platforms that have kept us connected over the last few months. It's been so inspiring to see our communities move their discussions online, because it allows LGBTQ+ people to hold onto a safe space where they can organize or socialize. This is super important every month, but it's especially necessary during Pride. I've seen a lot of new LGBTQ+ book clubs popping up lately, and I'm a huge fan of that—I'm actually dropping in on a NYC-based book club to discuss my book later this month, and I can't wait to chat with everyone. If you and your friends have been looking for a new way to connect, consider starting or joining a queer book club! Just pick a new LGBTQ+ book to discuss each month, invite all your friends, and have them pass along the invite too. Then grab a glass of wine (or whatever drink you prefer!) and get ready for a good discussion and a fun evening.

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Lauren Patten

“Pride
Photograph: Jenny Anderson

Actor, @pattenlauren

This year’s Pride month feels much more introspective for me. I’m connecting one-on-one with my queer friends, and I’m sure that I will find ways to connect to the larger community as the month continues. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersection between queer history and the Black Lives Matter movement. Pride was a riot, and is still a protest. Pride was started in large part thanks to Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans activist. We are living in a world in which black trans people are being murdered constantly, and these people are left out of the mainstream media narrative of the BLM movement. So, as a white cis queer person, Pride in 2020 means educating myself and amplifying voices in the Black community—in particular, the voices of the Black trans community.

Lazarus Lynch

“Pride
Photograph: Courtesy Son of a Southern Chef

Author and musician, @sonofasouthernchef

The energy of Pride exceeds a single month or festival for me. I am keeping the energy alive through music. My new single "I’m Gay" 
has connected me virtually with so many LGBTQ+ friends around the world. The music video includes Black gay boys around the country who shot themselves dancing to my song on their iPhones. It feels good to use my art as a means of activism, connection, and celebration."

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Randy Rainbow

“Pride
Photograph: Courtesy Varela Media

Comedian, @randyrainbow

I’ve been doing lots of virtual cocktail parties with my gay-ass friends, which is cute, but I’m normally a fan of the old “Irish goodbye” and find it’s awkward to just ghost on a four-person Zoom call once I inevitably get bored. I’ve also been watching a lot of the LGBTQ+ documentaries being promoted for Pride. It’s holding me over for now, but I long for the days of yore and look forward to us all sharing germs again.

Sonya Tayeh

“Pride
Photograph: Jayme Thornton

Choreographer, @sonyatayeh

The unjust the LGBTQ+ community is experiencing is devastating. As part of this community, I’m working hard to advocate for change. I’m using my voice as an Arab queer woman because fighting for acceptance is fighting for humanity. All of us deserve it. The isolation has been challenging, but I have received wonderful opportunities to connect/teach with young artists from the Julliard School, Steps Conservatory etc. This connection with younger artists has given me such motivation to be a leader and pillar of strength for them in such a trying time.

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Cholula Lemon

“Pride
Photograph: Courtesy Jonathan Hamilt

Drag queen, @cholulalemon

As a drag queen, I've been able to remain active within the LGBTQIA+ community through my work with Drag Queen Story Hour. With many of our conventional cultural spaces closed, we've partnered with local schools, libraries, museums and neighborhood organizations for a series of virtual, live-streamed events. We're even hosting a Global Pride Party for kids of all ages with kid-friendly performances featuring drag artists from around the world! The event will take place on Saturday, June 27, at 1pm. Tickets at dqshpride2020.eventbrite.com

Marga Gomez

“Pride
Photograph: Brenna Merrit

Comedian and playwright, @themargagomez

I'm bouncing around the ethernet for Pride month, performing in Zoom shows in Portland, San Francisco, L.A. and Tucson. I'm also in preproduction with Dixon Place for the July livestreams of my show Spanking Machine, about growing up brown and queer in Washington Heights. I rehearse remotely with my Queer Latinx director, Adrian Alea, from his place in Harlem. I'm looking forward to connecting with the Dixon Place audience in nightly talkbacks and I am convinced that is where I'll find a virtual NYC girlfriend.

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Becca Blackwell

“Pride
Photograph: Max Bernstein

Performer, @theirishhorse

I am mostly hanging with the LGBTQ+ person in the mirror lately. In an unprecedented moment of forced deep reflection, I am looking in the deep wells of who I am because whatever is happening on a macro level is undoubtedly happening on a micro level in myself. And for the good of the world and myself, I am trying to get to the root of my beliefs and see how I am truly viewing the universe and what I am putting into it as well as taking from it. I've stepped way away from social media for personal reasons so I am not as glued into the ethereal shenanigans on that level, but 90 percent of the close friends that I am engaged with IRL/flesh-and-blood are on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, so I am fully immersed in the technicolor rainbow. If I can ground and love those relationships, then I might have a leg to stand on after this.

Cole Escola

“Pride
Photograph: Allison Michael Orenstein

Comedian, @coleescola

I watched Encore! on Disney Plus with friends over Zoom recently. It's hard to get five people's TV's synced up perfectly. I've also been watching a lot of bootlegs of Broadway shows and hard-to-find movies which has kept me connected to all of the gay people who share them with me. Which reminds me, can anyone hook me up with a copy of the Holly Woodlawn movie, Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers? I can't find it anywhere.

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Erin Markey

“Pride
Photograph: Gregory Kramer

Performer, @erin_markey

We (my partner Gwen, me and our housemate Andy) have been doing a lot of "stoop hangs." Our lezzyish quar thrupple sits at the top of our stoop in Crown Heights and our primarily queer visitors sit at the bottom. Our thrupple made two Instagram Live concerts to raise money for SWOP and Brooklyn Community Bail Fund and lots of our queer buds showed up online with comments and venmo cash. The thrupple works out together every morning now and went on a weird cleanse after two months of heavy drinking and eating. When George Floyd was murdered, we made a bunch of signs and banners together, marched and protested every day, and we ran into a lot of queer friends (all masked and dripping in sanitizer). The queers I know and love show up. I had read The New York Times article on how to safely hug, so I occasionally took the risk and literally held my breath and stayed silent under the veil. My partner and I took a covid test and had to quarantine while we waited for results so we could visit our (on-the-verge-of-social-isolation-death) folks in various parts of Ohio. So when another friend, Desi, DJ-ed a dance party for a small group of lezzyish folk over zoom, it was a socially deprived quarantine highlight. Now we are in Cleveland doing puzzles again. It's the first time the queer thrupple has been separated in three months and now over text we are thinking about buying a 2008 volvo station wagon together. Over the quarantine, we have also considered getting a stripper pole, a top loading freezer, a baby and 75 acres of tick infested property upstate together. I did not know Andy very well before this all started. Our queer community has been three.

Looking for more ways to celebrate Pride this month?

  • LGBTQ+

After last year's largely virtual affair, this year’s NYC Pride celebration promises to be a mix of both in-person and virtual events. After the rally and the street festival Pride Fest, the Pride March will take place on Sunday, June 27 with rainbow-clad activists and allies taking to the streets in support of global LGBTQ rights. Here's your guide to one of the most epic things to do in the summer in NYC. 

The virtual edition of the Pride Rally will take place at 6 p.m. on June 25 on Heritage of Pride’s Facebook and YouTube channels. The event is free and will be hosted by Hope Giselle and Brandon Wolf.

Open Flame Queer Comedy and dance Party
Photograph: Courtesy Littlefield/© Deb Klein Photo

Open Flame Queer Comedy and dance Party

Open Flame is open-mic comedy meets LGBTQ+ social. On Saturday at 8pm, Get ready for a night featuring regulars of the show and queer comedy icons including Jessica Henderson, Gara, Brian Bahe and Joe Castle Baker. The night's proceeds will benefit FOR THE GWORLS, a Black, trans-led collective that fundraises money to help Black transgender people pay for their rent, gender-affirming surgeries, smaller co-pays for medicines/doctor’s visits, and travel assistance. Tickets to the event, which is at Littlefield (635 Sackett St.), are $8-$10 in person or $5 to livestream.

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Free designs and undercuts by Hairrari
Photograph: Nicie Mok

Free designs and undercuts by Hairrari

Hairrari, a gender-neutral barbershop at The Shops at Hudson Yards is doing a pop-up on Level 2 from now through June 26, at 1-7pm in honor of Pride Month. It'll offer free designs and undercuts as well as 20% off all other services to customers who visit the pop-up. Hairrari barbers are all experts in short hair and some are experts in long hair and color, too. The queer, woman and immigrant-owned business was founded in 2011 by Magda Ryczko and has three NYC locations and one Los Angeles barbershop.

Cheers, Queers! at Superfine
Photograph: Courtesy The Cake Boys

Cheers, Queers! at Superfine

Enjoy an all-drag king showcase hosted by The Cake Boys and Dyke Beer, a NYC drag king collective dedicated to highlighting local drag kings, trans and non-binary performers, and queer artists through live and digital media. The show on Saturday at 7pm will feature Muscles Monty, Myster E. Mel, Oliver Herface, Richard, Senerio, Sweaty Eddie and Uncle Freak. Since forming in 2019, the Cake Boys have produced a variety of shows: the Bachelorex, the Dood Network, Manmosa: the only drag KING brunch in NYC at SingleCut in Astoria, and the Cake Night Show: a fully scripted digital variety show starring local drag performers. Tickets are $25.

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DJ & Drag Meet 'n Greet at Showfields
Photograph: Courtesy Showfields

DJ & Drag Meet 'n Greet at Showfields

Head over to Showfields (11 Bond Street) on Pride Sunday to hang with DJ Hannah Lou (1-5pm) and meet Tina Burner starting at 4pm. While you’re there shop & support the queer-owned small businesses in partnership with Showfields and NYC Pride located on the first floor including brands like Queer Candle Co., Prince Peacock, Playout Apparel and more!

Brooklyn-based eco-friendly footwear brand ILYSM is teaming up with biodegradable glitter company BioGlitz to with a free Glitzing Station at Showfields (11 Bond St.). From June 5th-27th,  BioGlitz x ILYSM will be open to the public noon-7pm daily for shopping, glitzing, events, and free gifts while supplies last, all in celebration of Pride Month. Come get your face or body “glitzed” by a team of professional artists so you can shine bright.

  • Art
  • Brooklyn Heights

"Not Another Second" is an exhibit that offers a candid glimpse into the lives of 12 LGBTQ elders through a series of compelling portraits that intersect personal experiences of living during a time when being themselves was a crime. Shot by noted German photographer Karsten Thormaehlen also celebrates their personal journeys on deciding to live openly, as well as finding love and companionship. Each moving portrait is accompanied by the number of years lost living in the closet and not as their true, authentic self. This exhibit is a collaboration between nonprofit SAGE, Watermark Retirement Communities and Brooklyn’s iconic new luxury senior community The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights. The portraits will be viewable via AR and through free public and socially distanced viewings of the Not Another Second exhibit at The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights will take place every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from January 19th through March 2021. A reservation must be made to view the Brooklyn exhibition of Not Another Second. To book and reserve your timed ticket, visit www.notanothersecond.com.

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Pride Month at NYPL
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

Pride Month at NYPL

The New York Public Library marking Pride Month with the following online programs:

  • 6/10 | 7 PM: Queer Love in Color: Jamal Jordan with Blair Imani: Photojournalist and former New York Times multimedia journalist Jamal Jordan shares his photographic celebration of the love and relationships of queer people of color in this event presented by LIVE from NYPL.

  • 6/14 | 5:30 PM: TeenLIVE Author Talks: Chella Man and Adam Eli: Authors and activists Chella Man and Adam Eli discuss their books Continuum and The New Queer Consciousness, both published as part of the Pocket Change Collective, a series of small books with big ideas from today's leading activists and artists. 

  • 6/21 | 7 PM: Let the Record Show: Sarah Schulman with Kwame Anthony Appiah: Sarah Schulman, author of Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987–1993, discusses her comprehensive history of the organization and its role in American AIDS activism with writer and philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah in this event presented by LIVE from NYPL.

Branches across the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island (the boroughs served by The New York Public Library) will host virtual programs myriad for adults, kids, and teens. Information about these events can be found at https://www.nypl.org/events/pride

The Library has created a new list of recommended reads this year celebrating books that speak to the experience of Trans, Nonbinary, and Gender Nonconforming people. The list includes titles for Adults, Teens, and Kids.

Food Bank For New York City is holding a special Pride Month Virtual Service Hour on June 30, during which volunteers are invited to join us via Zoom to write personal letters to benefit New Yorkers living with HIV in collaboration with our partners at GMHC. June marks the 40th anniversary of the HIV epidemic in the US, so there’s never been a better time to show up and stand up for this community.

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Daniel Nardicio, Taylor Shubert and Sam Benedict are back with "Ruflections," a cabaret series starring Ru Paul’s Drag Race contestants that was filmed on Fire Island Pines at its most notorious show house, Reflections at 73 Bay Walk. The series features French chanteuse Nicky Doll from Season 12 in a stripped-down live show called “Covergirl: An intimate night of acoustic covers with Nicky Doll,” which introduces her in a new light—as a cabaret singer, song interpreter and raconteur—backed by Tim Young and band. It airs on Stellar Pride week June 24, 25th and 26th at 8pm.

Jan Sport from Season 12 and now All-Stars season 6 will star in "A Jantastic Birthday Celebration" for her 28th birthday. It'll featuring her powerhouse vocals, backup dancers and surprise guest stars. It'll air on Pride weekend as well June 24-26 directly before Nicky’s show.

This walking tour-audible exhibition hybrid of curated
queer art is a unique, immersive way of celebrating the queer community in Brooklyn. When you sign up, you'll get a map of the queer-owned and queer-friendly businesses in the neighborhood taking part. When you reach these locations, you scan a QR code in their windows to play the curated queer artist and their audio track (a song, poem, or spoken word). Artists involved include Lily Ali-Oshatz, Lesbian Herstory Archives, Staceyann Chin, Kyle Carrero Lopez, Maia Macdonald, Olaiya Olayimi, Soo Intoit and Julia Weldon. This runs through the whole month of June.

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"The First Rainbow" is a web-based, virtual augmented reality experience to honor the birthplace of the Gay Civil Rights Movement and celebrate Pride. Technology companies Flowcode, 8th Wall, and Arlene invite people to head to Christopher Park to see a virtual colorful rainbow and a vintage marker that educates users on the historic nature of the park as the birthplace of Pride. The web-based experience requires no app to download. Visitors simply scan a Flowcode QR code with their phone’s camera on signs placed in Christopher Park or click a link shared to them by friends and/or on social media to engage with the experience, no matter where they are. The activation kicks off at Christopher Park in NYC on Thursday, June 10th and will be shared digitally and on social media throughout Pride Month. You can also view the experience here, and share on social at #FirstRainbowNYC.

 

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