Wilson Cruz, Shangela and More on What Pride Means Amid the Pandemic and Protests

Pride 2020 Pandemic
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ET spoke with Wilson Cruz, Shangela, Sherry Cola, Jake Borelli and many more about the meaning of Pride in 2020.

This year, Pride Month looks very different. Not only has the coronavirus outbreak led to the cancellation of parades and other events all around the country, but the ongoing protests against systemic racism and police brutality has reshaped how many within the LGBTQ community are thinking about Pride, which started as a protest

However, that hasn’t stopped LGBTQ people from coming together, whether it’s via virtual gatherings and celebrations or taking part in protests or donating to organizations that are helping marginalized communities most affected by the pandemic. 

While there is still a long way to go, there have been changes made with the Supreme Court ruling against LGBTQ workplace discrimination, a decision that comes five years after marriage equality and 51 years after the Stonewall riots. Elsewhere, there are calls to defund the police as support for the Black Lives Matter movement continues to surge around the country. 

With that said, ET asked Wilson Cruz, Shangela, Sherry Cola and more LGBTQ stars what Pride means to them amid the pandemic and protests and how to keep it alive all month long. Here’s what they had to say:  

Wilson Cruz, Shangela, Sherry Cola, Jake Borelli. Getty Images

Wilson Cruz
Producer, Visible: Out on Television

“This year, for me, given the pandemic, which has isolated us from each other, and the uprising in response to the racism that still persists in our country and which has moved so many of US to reflect and take action, I believe that Pride, more than ever, is about how we take care of each other and stand up for each other. The pandemic and the quarantine has reminded us that so many LGBTQ people, especially youth, are living in homes and municipalities that are unwelcoming and dangerous. Let’s reach out and extend ourselves to them and help them feel less alone. And given the fact that our struggle for equality and acceptance was born from the same kind of abuse of police power that we see displayed today and was and is led by Trans women of color and drag queens who had enough, we MUST stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with our black and brown brothers and sisters and say, without pause, that ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

Host, We’re Here

“This year, we are definitely celebrating Pride in a different way. Being in quarantine these last few months has been a great way to reflect on not only ourselves but also how Pride originated. We have the freedom to celebrate our queerness because of the defiant LGBTQ leaders standing up for our rights. We must continue to raise awareness and support for our community and allies.”

Sherry Cola
Actor, Good Trouble

“Now more than ever, we're realizing that human connection is everything. It's nice to see people utilize social media to come together and spread positivity virtually. This entire experience has shifted our perspectives. I've been supporting the #BlackLivesMatter protests, and it's a major reminder that we have a lot more to fight for. Our work isn't even close to being done. We can't truly celebrate anything until all communities are equal. I refuse to be all talk and no action, especially after learning so much about activism on Good Trouble. Pride started as a movement, a protest, a riot -- so that people could have basic rights. I'm a bisexual Asian woman and I'm making it a priority to have pride in my allyship to every community that needs me. We're all in this together.”

Jake Borelli
Actor, Grey’s Anatomy

“Pride to me has always been both a celebration AND a way to honor the generations of queer people who have come before us and who have fought to get us to where we are now. The incredible thing is that both can still be possible even during this pandemic. I'm using this time to really reflect on how far we've come and to truly think about how we as a community can help support each other moving forward. We're being given an opportunity to really explore all the different ways there are to show pride.” 

Janet Mock, Rahne Jones, Brian Michael Smith, Todrick Hall. Getty Images

Janet Mock 
Writer/Director, Pose and Hollywood

“For me at least, there’s never been a sense of celebrating Pride without really thinking about our foremothers and our forefathers who were there that night. Literally, Stonewall Inn was one of the only safe spaces where LGBTQ people could come and gather in community. I think a lot of young people forget, and maybe even people of my generation too, forget that you were an outlaw if you were trans or queer, that people got in trouble for not having two items of gender-appropriate clothing and that alone could land you in jail. So on that fateful night in 1969, when they uprised together to say, ‘We’re tired of this policing. We’re not gonna take another raid on our lives. We’re not gonna be surveillanced anymore.’ When they fought back, that was the igniting of the change for LGBTQ people and largely that charge was led by people of color, poor folk who lived on the street, trans women, drag queens, butch lesbians who are out there. They were fighting back because they were the ones who were often most policed, most surveillanced, most put into jails. And so I think I always have that connected tissue to our really radical roots as the LGBTQ movement.” [Read More]

Rahne Jones
Actor, The Politician

“This is a wild time to be alive. We're currently living through a pandemic and we're also in the middle of a movement that is 400 years in the making. In many respects, I've never been more proud of who I am. I'm proud to be black and I'm proud to be a gay woman. This pandemic has gifted me time to fully recognize the intersectionality of my lived experience. So in this moment, pride means learning. I'm learning who I am, I'm learning how to use my voice, and most importantly, I'm learning about my own privilege as an able-bodied, cis gender woman and how I can be a better ally within my LGBTQIA community.” 

Brian Michael Smith
Actor, 9-1-1: Lone Star

“Pride to me, is a month of reflection, celebration and revolution and I think the forced isolation, uncertainty and gravity of the pandemic pushed me to reflect deeper on my journey as a black trans man in this country and what I'm doing with my art and voice to make the world better for my communities. It reminded me of the importance of community and how much strength we bring to each other. The pandemic and the subsequent Black Lives Matter/anti-racism uprising that we are experiencing is the epitome of what Pride is truly about -- a time to tap into our collective power and resilience to continue the fight for equality and justice at all intersections of our community. It’s a time to honor the heroes, the survivors, the pioneers, the liberators, the ancestors who came before us and fought their way out of the closets and from the fringes of society to remind the world that we are and have always been here and deserve the same rights to live, love and pursue happiness.” 

Todrick Hall
Singer, Quarantine Queen

“It’s affected it so much because I’m a part of two disenfranchised groups: I am gay and I am African American. And so being in this industry in general has been very difficult for me. For a long time, I would try to express to people what I was going through without trying to be pessimistic, or use the black or gay card as people like to say it. But the reason those cards exist is because they are things that you have to face on a daily basis. So for me, this is one of the Pride seasons that I'll never forget. I was supposed to be doing 16 Pride events. But I’m so much happier that I’m able to march and fight for gay rights and also fight for trans lives and black lives at the same time. It’s just been really uplifting for me because I feel like I have been able to be a part of causing positive change. I hope to have children someday, and I feel like me marching and using my voice and my gift and my platform to speak up for gay rights, trans lives, and black lives is something that I'm gonna be very proud of. To be able to say to my kids, ‘I helped play a part in making this world a safer place for you.’” [Watch]

Brandon Kyle Goodman, Jaida Essence Hall, Paula Pell, Raymond Braun. Getty Images

Brandon Kyle Goodman
Actor, Modern Love

“It means a time to reflect and show gratitude and respect for the many people who fought for queer liberation, especially the black and brown activists, community leaders, and artists. This year I'll be marching alongside many others in the All Black Lives Matter solidarity march endorsed by BLMLA and the Black Advisory Board, and honestly, political action and solidarity are what Pride was built on.”

Jaida Essence Hall
Performer, RuPaul’s Drag Race

“The thing is, I always believe that Pride -- although that Pride Month is always just one month -- I believe being proud is a 365-day thing, maybe 366 on a leap year, on a really good leap year. The best way to keep Pride alive is to remember and know in your mind and heart, to remember to be proud every single day you got to step out of the house. Baby, they could take Pride Month away, but it’s still up to us to remember who we are and to love ourselves every single day and be proud of ourselves and who we are.”

Paula Pell 
Creator, Mapleworth Murders

“Our community knows how to survive. How to adapt and to demand truth and find support and love no matter what. Back in the closeted days, my connection with other LGBTQ people was essential to my existence. Celebrating Pride to me always reminds me that together we will get through and that’s what we have to do in this pandemic. Stay connected in whatever safe ways we can and stay inside our bodies and fight all the fear.”

Raymond Braun
Host, State of Pride

“There is something so special about being able to share a space with people and see people come from all different facades of the community, to show support, to be visible. I am definitely going to miss the parades and I think a parade, whether you are in a small town or a big city, it's a powerful symbol to people who are particularly in the closet, of visibility and hope and inspiration. But, if there is anything that the LGBTQ community is, it's resilient, it's creative, it's brilliant, and I know that we are going to find a lot of ways this Pride season and beyond to utilize social media and share a message of pride and visibility because when you think about one of the amazing purposes that Pride serves, it's a beacon for people who are not comfortable with being themselves, or don't yet feel that pride from within, and the images that we can broadcast of supporting each other and sharing our stories are all little signals that we can send out for someone else to connect to. I just encourage everyone who feels comfortable and safe to do so, to use social media and talk about their identity, talk about their experiences in the LGBTQ community. The more that we can realize we are not alone and the more that we can see people we identify with and learn from, the more confidence it gives us to ultimately enter our own journey of coming out and it just creates a ripple effect.” [Watch]

Michael James Scott, Scott Turner Schofield, Jackie Cox, Telly Leung. Getty Images

Michael James Scott
Actor, Aladdin (Broadway)

“This pandemic has forced us all to sit within our own spaces and really reexamine where we are as people, as a country, as a world. In this unprecedented time, a true awakening is happening on many fronts and it’s more than ever so important that we continue the push for us all. Pride during a pandemic makes us feel that we are still here and that we are still not forgotten and more than ever we must be prideful and stand in our light of truth.”

Scott Turner Schofield
Actor, Studio City

“The silver lining of Pride during the pandemic is that everyone is taking it online. Now, kids living in places and families where they aren’t celebrated for all of who they are will be able to safely access Pride in ways they couldn’t have by having to go in person. I can’t imagine what that would have meant to me when I was a teenager in Charlotte, North Carolina. But Pride during the riots against white supremacy in the U.S. is another thing. We must never forget that Stonewall was a riot, and it started with pride. The transgender women of color who threw the first bricks at Stonewall had the pride to stand up for themselves and fight against the violence and disrespect that was the norm back then. Because of Silvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and the gays and lesbians who participated in the Stonewall riots, we can have the Pride we have today. I hope that, very soon, the Black Lives Matter riots will become a joyous celebration of when our country turned against white supremacy forever.”

Jackie Cox
Performer, RuPaul’s Drag Race

“Pride is about awareness and there are so many important queer causes that we still need to make money for even though we won’t have the big march and all of the huge corporate sponsorship. We still need to find ways to raise money for the Gay Men’s Crisis in New York City, Trevor Project, GLAAD. All of these really important queer institutions I want to still be able to raise money for so I’m going to try to sprinkle that out into my next live virtual appearances because we have to do something right, we have to keep the spirit of Pride alive and Pride is about letting the world know we are here, we are queer, we deserve to be celebrated and validated. We need to take care of our home, we need to find ways to support our queer brothers and sisters, our trans brothers and sisters, our trans siblings who need the support right now more than ever... We as queer people have done amazing things in our history and I have no doubt that we as a community will bounce back from it.”

Telly Leung
Actor, Aladdin (Broadway)

“Every year, I look forward to the parade and all the Pride festivities that last weekend in June. I’ve always said that it’s the most joyful day in New York City. This year, I am very disappointed that we can’t celebrate in person. But, I think it has forced all of us to reexamine the definition of ‘Pride’ and the true meaning behind the parties and the festivities. As I see the protests on the streets of New York for the BLM movement, I am reminded that before Pride was a celebration, it was a riot.”

Nicole Maines, Nikki Levy, Alex Newell, Sarah Kate Ellis. Getty Images

Nicole Maines
Actor, Supergirl

“Pride to me is a celebration. I think that a lot of the time, especially right now with everything crazy going on, it’s very easy to get bogged down in the fight for social justice and it is very easy to be weighed down with all of the hardships and the traumas that we as a community go through, throughout the year -- watching member after member of our community be found dead and watching all of the new bills introduced to attack us and every stupid anti-LGBTQ thing [President Donald] Trump tweets. I think it’s so easy to get angry and sad and to feel overwhelmed. And I think that Pride is a time to recognize that, but let all the sadness and the anger attached to that go and celebrate how far we've come, and celebrate the fact that we are even able to march in the streets and be openly gay and openly trans and wear glitter for a shirt, and just celebrate the culture and being able to be a part of the community and just be happy, be unquestionably, no strings attached, just happy for a month. With everything else that goes on, just able to let that go for a second and just be like, ‘I am queer and I am happy about it and let’s just have a good, gay old time,’ because the world and life is hard enough as it is and we deserve to just not have to be sad for a minute.” [Read More]

Nikki Levy
Creator, Don't Tell My Mother!

“My wife and I got married last August. We had 100 people in our backyard with a fabulous rabbi and a kickass Boba bar. My wife never wanted a big wedding. She wanted a private ceremony, with just us and an officiant. It took me 40 years to find this beautiful woman, so I wanted to shout it from the rooftops with hundreds of people and a banging party. My wife is an introvert, and I am an extrovert, if that wasn't clear. As we do with everything, we found a compromise. We eloped on the beach in Malibu last April -- just us and an officiant she found on Google the night before. We told no one. Then, six months later, we had a big party and got married again at our house. Everyone thought it was the first time. Now, being home nearly 24/7 for three months, she and I are so grateful we got to have our best friends and family here to celebrate our love, and our equality under the law. We took that gathering for granted not even a year ago. Today, we know it was a gift. That is Pride to us.”

Alex Newell
Actor, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist

“Reflecting where we've been and where we're going and coming together. It's not about parades and going to the Abbey. It's not about going to Mickey's. It's not about going to the New York bars like the Ritz or Industry. It's not about Posh. It's literally celebrating the way you are right now and how comfortable you are in your own life -- sexuality, orientation and all of that other good stuff -- and as a community coming together to see the changes that we've actively been making and that we're making.”

Sarah Kate Ellis
President and CEO, GLAAD

“I hope that people take away that this is an enormous opportunity for a great reset. That this global pandemic has shown us, has shined a light on our healthcare issues, our communities of color... I’m hoping that what's happening right now is that our whole universe is having this great reset.  And that everybody realized the power of their vote. Come Nov. 3, everybody heads to the polls and makes sure that up and down the ballot, we look for pro equality leaders in this country to take us through and lead us forward.”


--Additional reporting by Brice Sander, Denny Directo and Larry Dechant