How the LGBTQ+ community in New York has been staying connected
New York has changed drastically over the last few months and that transformation has affected the city’s LGBTQ+ community, as well. In the past, bonds could be forged over drinks at a gay bar, in the lobby before a downtown performance, at a Bushwick warehouse party or at any of the city’s many queer gatherings. Now, many of that is forced to take place through a computer screen or from at least six feet away.
Like everyone else, New York’s LGBTQ+ community has adapted to the new normal—moving gatherings online, connecting over video chat and Zoom and joining the protest sweeping the city calling for systemic change and an end to racial injustice. This Pride month, we checked in with LGBTQ+ New Yorkers we love to see how they’re staying connected with staying apart.
Michael R. Jackson
Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright, @thelivingmichaeljackson
I’ve always been a bit of a loner so I’ve not necessarily been as connected to the LGBTQ+ community during these pandemic days as I could be but I do have a group of friends who keep me company in a Sondheimian way, which is to say lots of deep talks, long (socially distanced) walks, telephone (and zoom) calls where we gossip about people or watch the mysterious Denise Richards together on Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I’ve always been a fan of the ’80s sitcom Designing Women so that was easy to fall back into but I did not know Carly Simon’s spectacular 1985 album Spoiled Girl, which has been on heavy rotation ever since I purchased it and has served as useful fodder and musical inspiration for my next musical White Girl In Danger being developed at the Vineyard Theatre.
I’ve been so grateful for all the video platforms that have kept us connected over the last few months. It’s been so inspiring to see our communities move their discussions online, because it allows LGBTQ+ people to hold onto a safe space where they can organize or socialize. This is super important every month, but it’s especially necessary during Pride. I’ve seen a lot of new LGBTQ+ book clubs popping up lately, and I’m a huge fan of that—I’m actually dropping in on a NYC-based book club to discuss my book later this month, and I can’t wait to chat with everyone. If you and your friends have been looking for a new way to connect, consider starting or joining a queer book club! Just pick a new LGBTQ+ book to discuss each month, invite all your friends, and have them pass along the invite too. Then grab a glass of wine (or whatever drink you prefer!) and get ready for a good discussion and a fun evening.
This year’s Pride month feels much more introspective for me. I’m connecting one-on-one with my queer friends, and I’m sure that I will find ways to connect to the larger community as the month continues. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersection between queer history and the Black Lives Matter movement. Pride was a riot, and is still a protest. Pride was started in large part thanks to Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans activist. We are living in a world in which black trans people are being murdered constantly, and these people are left out of the mainstream media narrative of the BLM movement. So, as a white cis queer person, Pride in 2020 means educating myself and amplifying voices in the Black community—in particular, the voices of the Black trans community.
Author and musician, @sonofasouthernchef
The energy of Pride exceeds a single month or festival for me. I am keeping the energy alive through music. My new single “I’m Gay” has connected me virtually with so many LGBTQ+ friends around the world. The music video includes Black gay boys around the country who shot themselves dancing to my song on their iPhones. It feels good to use my art as a means of activism, connection, and celebration.”
I’ve been doing lots of virtual cocktail parties with my gay-ass friends, which is cute, but I’m normally a fan of the old “Irish goodbye” and find it’s awkward to just ghost on a four-person Zoom call once I inevitably get bored. I’ve also been watching a lot of the LGBTQ+ documentaries being promoted for Pride. It’s holding me over for now, but I long for the days of yore and look forward to us all sharing germs again.
The unjust the LGBTQ+ community is experiencing is devastating. As part of this community, I’m working hard to advocate for change. I’m using my voice as an Arab queer woman because fighting for acceptance is fighting for humanity. All of us deserve it. The isolation has been challenging, but I have received wonderful opportunities to connect/teach with young artists from the Julliard School, Steps Conservatory etc. This connection with younger artists has given me such motivation to be a leader and pillar of strength for them in such a trying time.
Drag queen, @cholulalemon
As a drag queen, I’ve been able to remain active within the LGBTQIA+ community through my work with Drag Queen Story Hour. With many of our conventional cultural spaces closed, we’ve partnered with local schools, libraries, museums and neighborhood organizations for a series of virtual, live-streamed events. We’re even hosting a Global Pride Party for kids of all ages with kid-friendly performances featuring drag artists from around the world! The event will take place on Saturday, June 27, at 1pm. Tickets at dqshpride2020.eventbrite.com
Comedian and playwright, @themargagomez
I’m bouncing around the ethernet for Pride month, performing in Zoom shows in Portland, San Francisco, L.A. and Tucson. I’m also in preproduction with Dixon Place for the July livestreams of my show Spanking Machine, about growing up brown and queer in Washington Heights. I rehearse remotely with my Queer Latinx director, Adrian Alea, from his place in Harlem. I’m looking forward to connecting with the Dixon Place audience in nightly talkbacks and I am convinced that is where I’ll find a virtual NYC girlfriend.
I am mostly hanging with the LGBTQ+ person in the mirror lately. In an unprecedented moment of forced deep reflection, I am looking in the deep wells of who I am because whatever is happening on a macro level is undoubtedly happening on a micro level in myself. And for the good of the world and myself, I am trying to get to the root of my beliefs and see how I am truly viewing the universe and what I am putting into it as well as taking from it. I’ve stepped way away from social media for personal reasons so I am not as glued into the ethereal shenanigans on that level, but 90 percent of the close friends that I am engaged with IRL/flesh-and-blood are on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, so I am fully immersed in the technicolor rainbow. If I can ground and love those relationships, then I might have a leg to stand on after this.
I watched Encore! on Disney Plus with friends over Zoom recently. It’s hard to get five people’s TV’s synced up perfectly. I’ve also been watching a lot of bootlegs of Broadway shows and hard-to-find movies which has kept me connected to all of the gay people who share them with me. Which reminds me, can anyone hook me up with a copy of the Holly Woodlawn movie, Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers? I can’t find it anywhere.
We (my partner Gwen, me and our housemate Andy) have been doing a lot of “stoop hangs.” Our lezzyish quar thrupple sits at the top of our stoop in Crown Heights and our primarily queer visitors sit at the bottom. Our thrupple made two Instagram Live concerts to raise money for SWOP and Brooklyn Community Bail Fund and lots of our queer buds showed up online with comments and venmo cash. The thrupple works out together every morning now and went on a weird cleanse after two months of heavy drinking and eating. When George Floyd was murdered, we made a bunch of signs and banners together, marched and protested every day, and we ran into a lot of queer friends (all masked and dripping in sanitizer). The queers I know and love show up. I had read The New York Times article on how to safely hug, so I occasionally took the risk and literally held my breath and stayed silent under the veil. My partner and I took a covid test and had to quarantine while we waited for results so we could visit our (on-the-verge-of-social-isolation-death) folks in various parts of Ohio. So when another friend, Desi, DJ-ed a dance party for a small group of lezzyish folk over zoom, it was a socially deprived quarantine highlight. Now we are in Cleveland doing puzzles again. It’s the first time the queer thrupple has been separated in three months and now over text we are thinking about buying a 2008 volvo station wagon together. Over the quarantine, we have also considered getting a stripper pole, a top loading freezer, a baby and 75 acres of tick infested property upstate together. I did not know Andy very well before this all started. Our queer community has been three.
This article originally appeared in TimeOut on June 23, 2020.