How to Support Houston's Queer Community During Pride Month
Here's how to do your part.
Pride Month is crucially (and heartbreakingly) happening smack dab in what may be the largest civil rights movement of our lifetimes. Crucial because we are witnessing history in the making with this generation-defining action for Black liberation, and heartbreaking because vulnerable communities are still being brutalized in real time while we fight for them in the streets.
Like many other large cities, the traditional Houston Pride parade has been cancelled and tentatively pushed to this fall, while the Pride event taking place on June 27 will now be a march and rally held in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Oddly enough, this is the most authentic version of Pride we’ve had in ages. While many are more than happy to eschew the parade of corporate-sponsored rainbows, this is still a version of Pride we have yet to see in practice. So how do we navigate this new Pride while also demanding justice and equality in the era of COVID-19? Here's everything you need to know.
Acknowledge our roots
The first Pride was a riot against police brutality spearheaded by Black and Latinx trans women. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Pride, we should be honoring the world-changers like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera for paving the way for all of us. There would be no Pride without Black and brown trans people. The show of solidarity here in Houston is particularly meaningful as Black Lives Matter Houston is helmed by Ashton P. Woods, an unapologetic Black gay man on the front lines of Black liberation. Donate to Black Lives Matter Houston directly through their website or to the gift card drive created in response to COVID-19 to assist vulnerable Houstonians in need.
If you are able, attend events and demonstrations that center the long-stifled voices that birthed this movement (just make sure to wear a mask). Show up to the Pride crosswalk on Taft and Westheimer for the Houston Queers Stand in Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter event. Take part in the socially distant Juneteenth bike ride. Promote programs specifically assisting queer writers as well as mutual aid services like HTX Covidsitters, offering household management and tutoring for healthcare workers with children. Slightly pivoting from their usual hurricane disaster relief program, CrowdSource Rescue works with several local food banks and volunteers offering no-contact food delivery. If you can’t donate monetarily, volunteer your time to local queer-led, queer-friendly social justice organizations like the SURJ -- Showing Up for Racial Justice -- Houston chapter, which organizes white people for racial justice.
Due to healthcare discrimination, marginalized communities are more susceptible to both COVID-19 and its disastrous economical effects. We need backup fighting for our most vulnerable -- BIPOC trans folks without whom there would be no movement at all.
Put your money where your mask is
Donating to national organizations (like The Okra Project, a Black, trans-owned collective that offers home cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources to Black Trans People wherever they can reach them) doing the work is crucial, but remember to support local, queer, POC-owned and Black-owned businesses as well. Alan Gonzalez, the queer Latinx designer and Project Runway contestant, is making high-fashion masks and showing up for his home city with innovative designs and matching totes. Black-owned design house Onyii & Co. pivoted from their signature wrap dresses to keep Houston safer with their vibrant mask designs. Fashion designer Chloe Dao has taken her mask designs a step further by creating a custom “sip straw” mask so you can hydrate (or booze up) while staying protected. Shifting operations from her usual formalwear design, Black Houstonian designer Kyra Unlimited is turning evening gowns into super-fancy masks including a few with beading and great detail. Trans fashion designer Nghi Nguyen is designing luxury satin masks (including children’s sizes) for his fellow Houstonians to serve killer looks that don’t kill -- in fact, proceeds from Nguyen’s masks go to Houston Food Bank.
Go local even if you can’t physically go anywhere
Pour resources back into our community by supporting Houston’s finest restaurants, shops, artists, and creative spaces. Often one of the brightest beacons of queer Black excellence in Houston is Project Row Houses, Third Ward’s development of shotgun houses hosting rotating art exhibitions and community events that focus on cultural identity. Currently showcasing their installations virtually, these works still highlight the shifting cultural narratives we need right now and invoke the same impactful emotion when viewed on a screen.
Order to-go from queer favorites like Boheme, where the infamous frozen mojitos and Vietnamese fries are just as good at home as they are enjoyed on the patio at 50% capacity. Drag bingo and brunches are still happening at limited capacity, but for the immunocompromised and cautious, “quarantine packs” are made just for you. Barnaby’s basically celebrates Pride year round, but you know that rainbow cake hits different with their $5 Pride special in June. Known for always having solid vegan options, Black-owned bakery Crumbville is now accepting online orders for same or next day pick up at their Third Ward shop on Elgin. Taste the rainbow at Red Dessert Dive in The Heights where their Pride 2020 Menu features cakes and cookies to go. Queer-owned sweetery Michael’s Cookie Jar has Pride packs and rainbow cookies galore, with 15% of proceeds going to The Montrose Center. With a 5-mile delivery radius and online ordering, there’s no excuse to avoid satisfying that sweet tooth.
Many Pride-related activities have gone digital, increasing accessibility far beyond that of previous iterations. Pride Houston’s virtual events like the Pride Stars talent competition (the semi-finals and the series finale), the Pride Film Fest, and a virtual human rights conference are not only vital to the immunocompromised who can’t march with us on the ground, but they are total game-changers for many disabled members of our community. Disability advocates have called attention to lack of accessibility at Pride for years. While Pride Houston has made great strides in accessibility in recent years, it should be noted that this technically cancelled Pride is the most accessible Pride we’ve ever had.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. The Montrose Center is keeping the community updated on resources during this pandemic, online resources are also increasing accessibility in the mental wellness sphere. Empire actress Taraji P. Henson’s nonprofit, Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation is providing free virtual therapy to people of color facing COVID-19 stressors. Similarly, Greater Heights Holistic Psychiatry is offering free psychiatric consultations for those in need during this difficult time.
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