How to Support the Queer Community in NYC During Pride
From supporting local businesses to partying virtually.
In 2020, Pride Month looks and feels different than perhaps ever before. As New York City continues to navigate life during COVID-19, adjustments have to be made in order to keep people safe -- that means forgoing Pride parties, concerts, and what would've been the 50th anniversary of the Pride March, which organizers have now transformed into a virtual rally scheduled for Friday, June 26.
On the bright side, the cancelation of parades and IRL celebrations has given us a chance to focus our energy on the true spirit of Pride: fighting against injustice until every person can celebrate their unique identities without fear. And with the current movement for social justice and equality for Black Americans in the wake of George Floyd, this also means showing continued support to LGBTQ+ folks in the Black community.
The city might be a little less glittery than usual right now, but there are still plenty of ways to celebrate, show solidarity, and support the local queer community.
Raise your voice for BIPOC queers
We entered June with citywide protests and marches against police brutality, a stark contrast from last year’s triumphant WorldPride events. However, the Stonewall Riots of 1969 were led by Black trans women also fighting police brutality, and as queers who benefited from their bravery, it’s our duty to amplify the Black Lives Matter movement and fight for the people who gave us power to fight in the first place.
There are many opportunities to support BIPOC queers and the Black community in NYC. Some are simple -- like ordering dinner from a Black-owned restaurant or shopping at a local, Black-owned business -- and some require more commitment -- like redirecting some of your paycheck to a nonprofit or supporting important community efforts.
The Audre Lorde Project is a vital community organization that supports queer people of color in NYC and relies on grassroots support. FIERCE is another powerful nonprofit that's raising up the next generation of activists through leadership programs geared toward LGBTQ+ youth of color. Alibi, one of the city's few remaining Black-owned gay bars, is struggling financially, and a contribution to their GoFundMe will help the Harlem hotspot outlast the pandemic.
Support other vital LGBTQ+ organizations
The ongoing pandemic has posed a great challenge for organizations that help the LGBTQ+ community thrive. Queer populations are already at heightened risk of complications with COVID-19, and without New York City’s life-changing and life-saving nonprofits, the community would lose the support needed to stay healthy and connected.
The Center is continuing to help LGBTQ+ folks get medical attention, mental health support, legal aid, housing assistance, and other vital services. Help fund their operations by donating online. Other queer health centers that rely on donations, like Callen-Lorde and Housing Works Community Healthcare, are doing their best to offer services to patients in a way that minimizes the spread of COVID-19.
The Ali Forney Center, which keeps LGBTQ+ youth out of homelessness, has powered through the pandemic, something that wouldn't be possible without community aid. The Transgender Law Center recently hosted a series of virtual community gatherings about the coronavirus crisis to help educate people and share important resources -- the series ended, but they're still accepting donations to carry on their mission. As an advocate for LGBTQ+ elders, SAGE is offering virtual programming in NYC for this high-risk group. Recommend their services to the older folks you know, and support their life-saving work with a financial gift.
Keep an eye on your favorite performers and queens
The entire nightlife industry has been put on hold in NYC, but that hasn’t stopped entertainers from finding ways to adapt. Social media is the COVID-era nightclub, where people are hosting drag competitions, concerts, comedy shows, and dance parties to give quarantined queers a virtual night out (and make some coin in the process).
Queer venues like Hardware, Playhouse, The Toolbox, and The Monster have continued programming online, with resident performers hopping on livestreams to host digital events. DJ Chauncey D brings beats to Stonewall's Zoom happy hours every Friday, and the Marie's Crisis pianists continue to entertain on Facebook (and raise money for causes related to the Black Lives Matter movement).
As always, drag queens are doing the most. The Digital Pride Fest has fun virtual events all month long with some of the most notable queens, and if you follow your favorite performers on social media you'll see what other programs they're involved with right now. Beyond entertainment, many queens have been using their platforms to spread important messages. Bob the Drag Queen and Peppermint, for example, addressed racism among Drag Race fans during a particularly timely conversation that all non-Black queers should take the time to absorb this month.
Of course these aren’t the only people adjusting to nightlife’s new digital sphere -- check in with all of the performers you love to see how they’re carrying on during the shutdown.
Shop online from queer-owned businesses
While you’re on the web, support queer brick-and-mortars that are relying heavily on Internet sales to get through the pandemic. Crown Heights gift shop and home goods store Fredericks & Mae has an extensive online collection, as does intersectional feminist witch shop Cult Party and women-friendly sex store Babeland. The BGSQD bookstore started a system to ship books to customers until they’re able to reopen. Queer Candle Co., an Artists & Fleas vendor that donates 10% of its profits to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, has continued to sell homemade soy wax candles online; and while Housing Works, the NYC organization aiming to tackle the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS, had to close its thrift shops and bookstore cafe, they’ve amped up their online inventory for people who can continue supporting their mission.
Digital-only shops will also need your support during the forthcoming recession. Gay Apparel sells gender-neutral tops that say “GAY” in a highly recognizable style. The Phluid Project, formerly located in NoHo, now runs an exclusively online operation focused on gender-free fashion. Project Runway alum Hester Sunshine makes her custom couture accessible at her online shop Sunshine by Hester. NYC portrait photographer Warren Giddarie sells sexy calendars, prints, and apparel on the Fluorescent Studio site. And of course, there are plenty of queer-owned Etsy shops to browse through in addition to the based-out-of-NYC businesses.
Get a to-go drink from the usual Pride destinations
You may not be able to grind on the Metropolitan dancefloor or post up on a stool in the back of Cubbyhole right now, but some of the best gay bars in NYC are now offering drinks on the go. Julius' reopened its bar and grill just in time for Pride, Alibi is doing takeout "happy hours," The Boiler Room has great walk-up offers, Suite Bar stays open later than most places right now, and perhaps for the first time, you can grab a drink from The Monster without worrying about a cover charge.
While we wait for the club lights to turn back on, support the places that haven't reopened yet. Fundraisers have been set up for Cubbyhole, Ginger's, Stonewall, DBL, The Vault, Nowhere, The Rosemont, Macri Park, Mood Ring, and just about every other queer bar you love. Any time you decide to mix yourself a drink, consider “tipping” your favorite bartender on Venmo. If you don't know any queer bartenders, hop on Their Tips, a database of LGBTQ+ service industry folks who could use some support.
Order takeout and delivery from queer eateries and cafes
While NYC’s restaurants have taken a huge hit as a result of social distancing, many have been able to stay open by pivoting to delivery and takeout only. One of the best ways to support eateries that are still trucking along in the midst of the pandemic is by ordering meals from them as often as your budget allows.
If you have a favorite LGBTQ-backed restaurant, check in and see which of their services are still available; if you don’t, here are some options: In gay-centric Hell’s Kitchen, Etcetera Etcetera boxes up its Italian fare six days a week, Kahve Coffee offers takeout, and Huascar & Co. Bakeshop satisfies sweet tooths with takeout and delivery services. Fonda’s renowned Mexican food & margs -- found in Park Slope, East Village, and Chelsea -- can be ordered for takeout or delivery through any of the major apps. And Meme’s Diner in Prospect Heights has shut down most of its operations, but opens on the weekends for bakery, pantry, and bar orders.
Buy gift certificates to your favorite queer spots
Purchasing gift certificates from the places whose doors are locked indefinitely helps the owners get some sort of income while they wait to reopen. Buy them for friends or get them for yourself -- when they're back in business, you’ll have a little treat to cash in.
Most restaurants have gift cards or certificates available for purchase on their websites, including on Thrillist Serves, but the practice extends beyond the food and drink industry. For example, gay-owned salon Hawthorne allows you to buy e-gift cards for a specific stylist, and radical bookstore Bluestockings sells gift certificates in addition to the products in its online store.
Stock up on merch
If you love something, why not wear your heart on your sleeve? Drag queens have merch, comedians have merch, Broadway shows have merch, bars and restaurants have merch -- all your favorite performers, performances, and performance venues probably have merch, and now’s the best time to get it.
Some of the best LGBTQ+ bars in the city have online stores, including Flaming Saddles, Henrietta Hudson, and The Stonewall Inn. Broadway productions have been put on hold through the summer, but their digital gift shop carries on. Seek Treatment -- the inherently queer podcast about boys, sex, f***ing, dating, and love -- sells T-shirts with the hosts’ best catchphrases. And many local drag queens have their own merch lines that you can find through their social media pages or websites.
Try to enjoy yourself, boo
We're living in tense times, but it's still a month to celebrate your LGBTQ+ identity and connect with the community. Even if your June isn't filled with Low Tea parties and open-air raves, you can find ways to safely gather and unwind with friends. Plan a socially distant picnic with the takeout food and drinks you picked up, or get a virtual party going with online drinking games. Show off your flawless Pride outfit at a protest, or on your weekly grocery store run. You've earned the opportunity to feel some pride, and that's something nobody can take away.
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