TOLEDO, OH – For the last decade, the Toledo Pride Parade has been a celebration of LGBTQ+ rights that kicks off a three-day weekend of events bringing in thousands of supporters; however, this year that celebration must take place from home.
“I don’t think anything virtual can match up to what Pride is like in person,” said Asher Sovereign, president of the University of Toledo’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance. “What is really incredible about Pride is that you don’t feel like the only LGBT+ person in the room for once; you get a sense of community that a lot of queer-identifying people don’t get in their daily life.”
This year, amidst health concerns over COVID-19, the Toledo Pride Parade has been cancelled and replaced with the virtual event dubbed “Pride on the Inside.” This online webinar is sponsored by the Toledo Pride Foundation and set to feature a virtual parade, live musical performances, drag shows and motivational speaking from local LGBTQ+ community activists.
“At Pride events you’re surrounded by people like you and your allies.” said Sovereign. “Plus, you have access to hundreds of resources and local organizations to further connect you to others. Virtual events can remind you of that setting, but I think most will agree that it isn’t the same.”
This year would have marked the 11th consecutive Pride Parade for Toledo; according to the Toledo Pride Foundation, each year since 2012 has brought in over 10,000 attendees.
The Toledo Pride Facebook group boasts over 12,000 followers and posts regularly on local events for the LGBTQ+ community. The Pride on the Inside’s individual Facebook page, launched in mid-June, currently indicates less than 600 attendees for the upcoming event.
“I had absolutely no idea there was going to be any sort of virtual pride parade,” said Christopher Palmer, a member of the Toledo Pride Facebook page and student at the University of Toledo. “I’ve heard of bigger events in Detroit and Columbus, but I barely even knew that Toledo Pride was planning anything. What even is a virtual parade?”
Palmer may not be the only LGBTQ+ supporter with questions. Pride on the Inside’s Facebook page, does not allow commenting and has no listed contacts for further information. Toledo Pride could not be reached for comment.
“It’s not just a parade being cancelled here,” said Alyssa Reed, Toledo Pride member. “Pride usually throws a three-day weekend of events and parties. Meeting those expectations online will be difficult.”
Sovereign said that the focus of Pride comes down to embracing one’s identity, which they denote can be celebrated without parades. With the parade cancelled, Sovereign said many supporters are still turning out for other social justice issues.
“Of course, this year’s Pride month is aligning with the massive social movement of Black Lives Matter and the two have not been separate from each other,” said Sovereign. “There have been massive protests dedicated to black trans lives and many LGBTQ+ organizations across the country are actively holding solidarity with the movement. I think that because of this, I’ve seen more unity this year among the LGBTQ+ community than ever before.”
Whether on the streets for other national identity issues or celebrating virtually for home, it seems COVID-19 has not dulled the roar of Toledo’s LGBTQ+ community.
The Pride on the Inside event is set to be hosted by Deja Delatero and Amber Stone and is slated to begin at 1 p.m. on Aug. 22. Stay alert with the Toledo Pride and Pride on the Inside Facebook pages for additional updates and information.