Virtual Pride Month offers entertainment, education and community online

Flying Rainbow flags at the 2017 Pride Parade in New Paltz. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

If you’ve ever been to one, you’ll know that the people at the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center in Kingston really mean it when they say, “We hated to have to cancel our in-person Pride March and Festival.” The annual event is an extravaganza of good will, high spirits, gritty determination, public art, consciousness-raising, community-building and imaginative fun.

Having to opt for less visibility this year on account of the danger of the heightened transmission of COVID-19 in crowds must really stick in the organizers’ craw. But LGBTQ+ folks who have been around since the Eighties know a thing or two about how to take epidemics seriously, and could probably give a useful lesson to the rest of us.

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Nonetheless, June is still Pride Month; this year it’s simply going virtual. Instead of just strolling into a venue, you’ll have to tune in, and sometimes sign up online  – say, if you want to perform (from home) at the open mic or have your say at the town hall. But we’re all polishing our Zoom meeting skills these days, aren’t we?

Virtual Pride kicks off this Wednesday, June 3 with an event requiring preregistration. Beginning at 6 p.m. and presented in partnership with Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, the “Know Your Rights Digital Training: Covid 19 Edition” will address the legal challenges that the LGBTQ+ community faces in navigating the pandemic. There will be discussions of how changes in local, state and federal laws impact the LGBTQ+ community. Whether you’re navigating applying for unemployment for the first time, afraid to return to work due to safety conditions, trying to navigate changing your name during court closures, or are worried about being evicted, help is available..

Sadly, the refreshing of the rainbow crosswalks in front of the Center at the intersection of Wall and John streets in Kingston’s Stockade will not be open to volunteers this year. LGBTQ Center, Radio Kingston and O+ Festival staff members will be demonstrating their paintbrush-wielding flair at safe intervals beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 6. The crosswalk painting will be livestreamed on the Center’s Facebook page.

That same evening, from 5 to 6 p.m., Pride 2020 will telecast its virtual opening reception and volunteer appreciation event, where you can learn more about the virtual events in June and celebrate the volunteers. Anyone can join the Zoom meeting by visiting and using the Meeting ID 982 0231 7164.

Music is always integral to Pride celebrations in the Hudson Valley. This year there will be two tuneful events for your from-a-distance enjoyment: On Sunday, June 6 from 4 to 6 p.m., Facebook Live will host a music festival, featuring local performers Denise Parent, Nia & Ness, Ryan Cassata and Salem Corwin. It will be streamed at . The following Saturday, June 13 at 7 p.m., the annual Pride open mic will be viewable at the same virtual venue. While viewable for free, this one is a sort of telethon: Pay-what-you-can optional donations during the event will go to support LGBTQ Community Center causes.

Several events are geared toward giving LGBTQ teens a couple of excuses to socialize in a safe space, known as Chill Out. This year the safety factor is more about the coronavirus than harassment from homophobes or pedophiles, so Pride Teen Movie Night will happen on Discord, an online service that mainly provides gathering sites for computer gamers.

The movie offering this year will be Stephen Beresford’s much-praised Pride (2014), which tells the story of the unlikely 1984 alliance between the British LGBTQ community and striking coal miners. This space is for teens, so the organizers will be screening who is coming in. If you let your friends already going to Chill Out know that you are coming, they can get you in right away. Otherwise you’ll be asked to jump into a video chat to say hello.

Another cultural offering on June 19 beginning at 7 p.m. is for all ages. New Deal Creative Arts present a staged reading of The Laramie Project, Moisés Kaufman’s play about the reaction to the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. This is a joint fundraiser, with proceeds going to support the Center and New Deal Creative Arts.

Everybody’s doing virtual town halls these days, right? We might just come out of the pandemic  demanding this sort of informational access at home from our public officials all the time. On Thursday, June 25 at 7 p.m., the region’s LGBTQ+ community will get its own version for the first time, via Zoom. At “Listening for Action,” Center staff and members of the board will be present to hear your thoughts and ideas. Comments will be utilized to improve future communication and organization, programs and services.

It wouldn’t be a proper Pride month without drag artists strutting their stuff, and Ulster County’s own hotbed of gender-bending creativity, the Haus of Peculiar, will be showcased on the Center’s YouTube channel on Saturday, June 27. “A Very Peculiar Drag Show” gets under way at 8 p.m. It’s the wrap-up event of Virtual Pride 2020.

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