How to Support Austin’s Queer Community During Pride
Like everything else in 2020, Pride Month isn’t going as planned. Many of June’s Pride celebrations across the US were canceled months ago in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Even Austin Pride, which takes place in August, is looking a bit uncertain. Though still scheduled for August 15, Austin Pride President Micah Andress told Thrillist, “the city has zero new information about if and when events will occur,” concluding that the “likelihood of it actually happening in person is very slim.”
With June came nationwide protests against police brutality and in defense of Black lives, spurred on by George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers: a reminder that Pride began as a riot, led by Black and brown trans women, outside a New York City gay bar in 1969. Our current reckoning with racism, along with the culmination of events from coronavirus to the economy crash, has left many of us asking what we can do to support our queer community, our Black community, and queer communities of color in these unprecedented times.
After several months of lockdown, Texas may be reopening full steam ahead, but many of Austin’s LGBTQ bars remain closed. In a May 18 Facebook post, Oilcan Harry’s, Austin’s oldest operating gay bar, announced that it and its Fourth Street neighbor Rain on 4th will not reopen “until we have a prudent and thoughtful plan in place, which helps ensure the safety of our customers and employees.” Over text, Cheer Up Charlie’s Maggie Lea said they plan to reopen in early July with outside table service only. The lack of in-person gatherings and spaces hasn’t stopped the queer community from staying active. Parties, drag shows, Pride events, and LGBTQ+ organizations are still happening virtually. Because neither civil unrest nor a pandemic can stop the queer community from showing up for one another.
With that in mind, here are some of the best ways to support Austin’s LGBTQ+ and QTPOC communities.
Show up for local Black LGBTQ+ organizations
In April, Austin Black Pride canceled its fifth annual Pride Week (scheduled for June 7-14), due to coronavirus. With covid disproportionately affecting Black and Latinx communities, ABP wrote on Facebook: “There is no higher priority than the health and wellbeing of the Black LGBTQIA community.” As the post noted, this may be the first time in years that the organization hasn’t united revelers to “educate, celebrate, and empower our community” in person, but that doesn’t mean ABP isn’t still actively advocating for the rights of Austin’s Black queer and trans community members.
The nonprofit continues to put on virtual programming, such as wellness check-ins and BIPOC-led workouts. In a slight nod to the state’s reopening, ABP teamed up with Kind Clinic (Austin’s full service sexual health and wellness clinic) for KIKI: The Drive-In Experience, a screening of the documentary on the queer youth of color in New York’s Ballroom scene. While the event has passed, you can still make donations to Austin Black Pride via Venmo (AtxBlackPride) or Paypal. To offer a more long-term financial impact, would-be sponsors are always welcome to reach out.
ABP isn’t the only organization promoting and supporting Black and brown voices in town. For more than 30 years, allgo has worked to celebrate and nurture Texas’ queer communities of color. Based in Austin, allgo provides social justice programming, support for QPOC artists, and robust health and wellness events. Covid may have put an end to in-person gatherings, but allgo is still making space to support local QPOC wellness with online events. The nonprofit has joined with Texas Association Against Sexual Assault to host the Community Healing Series, a virtual meeting space designed to bring queer people of color together with local healers. On Facebook, allgo has also provided useful resources on reaching out to City Council regarding local police violence. To help allgo continue its many years of service, consider donating via the website. With its small but mighty staff, allgo also accepts volunteer help; if time is more accessible than cash these days, consider reaching out to see what kind of queer power they need in their corner.
Another great way to show up for Austin’s Black and brown LGBTQ+ community is by supporting the queer-led activist organizations working to end police brutality and systemic racism. Providing a “framework for the global empowerment and wealth of Black people,” 400+1 is currently collecting bail fund donations. If someone you know has been arrested and is in need of monetary help, reach out. The organization will prioritize “BIPOC, LGBTQIA, immigrant, disabled, and poor” folks. 400+1 is also seeking some on the ground support. See their website for additional information. Meanwhile, the student-driven digital community center at University of Texas - Austin known as the Mutual Aid Collective ATX is asking for donations -- as needed -- for protesters as well as students who’ve been impacted by covid. Follow their instagram page @mutualaidatx to stay up-to-date on needs.
Tip for virtual drag
In March, the city shuttered bars and nightclubs to decrease covid infections, creating an undeniable hardship for Austinites who rely on the nightlife and entertainment industry to make a living. Bars across the city published GoFundMe accounts to help staff stay afloat. With no stages to turn to, drag performers moved online. By now, fans are no stranger to Twitch. The live streaming video service is currently hosting shows from many of Austin’s drag artists including Louisianna Purchase (of Dragula Season 3 fame); Boiz of Austin, the city’s only drag king troupe; and Poo Poo Platter, a gaggle of “Red River queens” keeping drag weird. Just like in real life, tipping in the URL universe is much appreciated. Today, however, those coveted tips are going further.
Poo Poo Platter founder Bulimianne Rhapsody told Thrillist that the best way for Austinites to support artists at this time is “definitely tuning into shows and tipping.” But, in true ally fashion, Bulimianne added that many active drag artists are “focused on the issues before us now,” meaning a lot of tips are being donated to BIPOC organizations. Over email, Bulimianne wrote: “The recent police brutality attacks against Black people remind the LGBTQ+ community that our own liberation started with a riot against police, one that was led by [trans people of color].” Describing drag artists as “some of the loudest voices” in the queer community, the queen said many are using their platforms to educate and inspire activism while also combatting “racism in our own community.”
Boiz of Austin took a similar approach with their June 9 Pride Showcase. In a Facebook post, the troupe announced that “only our Black and POC performers will receive compensation,” the rest will donate their tips to local Black-led organizations, because “There would be no ‘PRIDE’ without Black Transgender Women.”
Louisianna Purchase, arguably Austin’s most famous queen, has been virtually hustling since stay-home orders canceled her East Coast tour in March, posting photos, online performances, and music videos, which she makes with the help of Chique Fil-Atio. She’s asked that those who enjoy her virtual art continue to support her work via tips and buying swag. But in light of Floyd’s death, Louisianna has since used her platform to highlight ways allies can support the Black Lives Matter movement. On June 1, the scream queen shared on Instagram that she will continue to post drag content, but promised that, for the month of Pride, she’ll be donating a portion of her proceeds to Black Lives Matter and the Austin Emergency Bail Fund. She added: “Please continue to donate, make the calls and have those hard conversations with family and friends.”
Support the arts
The phrase "put your money where your mouth is" really rings true right now. If you or someone you love is stocking up on anti-racism literature, consider buying from a local queer-owned, feminist bookstore like Austin’s very own BookWoman (still hosting virtual book clubs, too). Check out the store’s online ordering options for easy, social-distancing-approved shopping.
Meanwhile, Interfaces, a community initiative that nurtures and amplifies marginalized artists through programming, has turned to Zoom to continue hosting its monthly artist showcase and open mic in the face of covid. Though the show is free, supporters can donate online to help Interfaces continue creating “diverse, inclusive, equitable, and accessible” space for Black, brown, queer, trans, and disabled artists and fans. Writers, and list-makers alike, should consider dropping $5 for a discreet Interfaces notebook. For Austinites with a message, Interfaces announced, on June 8, a call for artists interested in contributing to its first zine -- 60% of zine sales will be distributed between 400+1, Austin Black Pride, and Austin Justice Coalition.
As KB, Interfaces’ lead organizer and founder, told Thrillist, there are numerous ways for folks to support the queer community now and always. KB urged readers to help boost the queer economy by shopping at QTPOC-owned businesses and regularly donating to QTPOC-led community efforts. In light of the current unrest and calls to be a better ally to not only the LGBTQ+ community but also the Black community, KB added: “Read the many antiracism resources and reading lists that are being disseminated right now. Listen to QTPOC leadership. Say sorry and commit to changing when you mess up.”
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