LGBTQIA+ History Coronavirus The World

50 years later, the legacy of Pride lives on

The New York City Pride parade has been cancelled for the first time since its origin 50 years ago. In-person events that were scheduled to take place June 14-28, 2020 are in the process of being reimagined virtually as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pride is a staple in New York City, as it has been since the Stonewall Riots prompted a revolution in June of 1969. The fight for gay-rights as we know it was born and catalyzed here. America in the 1960’s, and in the decades that came before it, was not at all welcoming for those in LGBTQIA+ community. In New York, any inclination of sexual activity between people of the same sex in public was considered illegal. That is, hand holding, kissing, or even dancing. This antiquated and ridiculous law was not overturned until 1980 when the People v. Ronald Onofre case was decided. 

These times were also riddled with discrimination and a series of raids among other forms of abuse on prominent gay bars and clubs in Greenwich village. Such spaces were some of the only places where members of the community could seek refuge and were finally able to express themselves openly without worry. Nonetheless, police brutality on the basis of sexual orientation and just plain bigotry was awfully common during these raids.  

On the night of June 28, 1969 obvious tensions arose between the two groups, and the patrons bravely decided to fight back against the police at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar that was one of the few of its kind that opened its doors to drag queens. Notably, the first bottle of the uprising, which lasted six whole days, was thrown by a Black transgender woman, Marsha P. Johnson. The protesters were met time and time again with tear-gas and physical altercations with the police, but they persisted. Those in the street are said to have been singing slogans similar to the ones that we hear today like “gay power” and “we shall overcome.” 

It would be an injustice to ignore the contributions of the Black community to this iconic moment that started a resistance.

This moment sparked the beginning of a modern resistance that is beautifully laced with love and versatility. 

It would be an injustice, however, to ignore the coincidences of this past that align with the current civil rights demonstrations happening across the world, declaring defiantly that Black lives matter. Both movements continue to feature a spotlight on recognizing basic human rights while also condemning police practices that terrorize the communities they are meant “to serve and protect.” So much of American history is patterned with this same struggle, consistency, and perseverance. Not to mention that it was, in fact, Black women who spearheaded this revolution 51 years ago, and 51 years later Black women are again at the forefront of a movement seeking to eradicate systemic inequality. We must not let this go unnoticed.

The year after what has come to be known as the Stonewall riots, June of 1970, marked the first ever Pride parade in New York City. Though it took a long time to come, the LGBTQIA+ community has certainly overcome much of the hate and marginalization that has been thrown its way. But, they’re still fighting. To this day, new non-discrimination protections are being fought for and passed all because of their constant effort and strength. 

Since then, New York City and its Pride parade has been a proven safe-haven for vulnerable and battered communities alike. It is a time for people to come together and celebrate themselves as phoenixes who have risen way above the ashes while also acknowledging the slashed history that they are eternally attached to. 

Just last year, New York City hosted world WorldPride and some 2 million people were in attendance. This in and of itself is a testament to the impact that the revolution has had, and continues to have, all over the world. Such ever-clear and unrelenting perseverance is nothing less of an inspiration. 

Today, as the coronavirus runs its raging course throughout the United States, New York City has been noticeably hit the hardest. With nearly 212,000 confirmed cases and over 20,000 deaths thus far in the City alone, New Yorkers are being urged to remain full of the hope and drive that makes us so thick-skinned in the first place. But, this is not an easy feat, especially given the turmoil that seems to be slowly encapsulating every bit of our daily lives. Once again, we have set out in a movement that looks to challenge history and change it for good. For the LGBTQIA+ community, that anxiety is heightened tremendously. 

The absence of the iconic Pride parade will certainly have a dramatic financial impact on the people and businesses that have come to rely on it. Not to mention the mental toll that will surely come along without a break from mobilizing, resource, or strategy efforts concerning the ongoing, and seemingly never-ending, fight for equal rights. It is certainly an all-hands-on-deck sort of thing. This fight is fought every single day, with the smallest actions sometimes making the most noise, and none of it should go unnoticed. 

The contributions that the LGBTQIA+ community has made to both the City and to the greater struggle for equality are undeniable. So, the decision to cancel Pride this year was not easy. But, it was definitely necessary. However, just because the pandemic prevents us from physically coming together this year, it does not mean that the spirit of Pride in New York City won’t be felt just the same.

An online Global Pride will be broadcasted for 24-hours straight on June 27, starting in the east and moving west. Each local or participating pride chapter is hoped to have an allotment of 15-minutes of airtime each, depending on individual time zones, for performances and speeches by grand marshals. This is a community that has always come together in the face of adversity and this year is no different. My wish is for this to be yet another example of the LGBTQIA+ communities resilience that should be honored and remembered, especially in a context of human rights.

Tech Now + Beyond

As a kid figuring out my identity, playing The Sims gave me a world free to be myself in

As a confused, queer kid, I found solace in an unlikely place: The Sims. I don’t think any other game – or any form of media – was as comforting to me as what The Sims was.

I spent a great deal of my weekends in my brother-in-law’s shed-turned-office in our backyard, creating families, downloading mods, and building dream houses. My cousin and I even took videos of our Sims and edited them together on Windows Movie Maker to create a soapie called ‘Days of our Sims’. It was equal parts cringey and damn awesome.

The bottom line is that I loved The Sims. It was a huge part of my childhood. It helped me imagine myself as an adult, one with a happy career and a beautiful house. More importantly, it helped me imagine a world where I was allowed to be queer.

Sims were never coded to have an orientation, which meant they could be romantically and sexually attracted to anyone in their age group. In simple terms, all Sims were potentially bisexual. For someone who grew up thinking that heterosexuality was the only option, this detail blew my mind.

When I got into The Sims 2, I was around 11 years old. I kind of knew what it meant to be gay. I was already exploring the idea that I might be queer. I was in primary school, and while I could imagine a life with a husband, I could also imagine a life with a wife. I didn’t know what bisexuality was until much later, and even then, I struggled to imagine myself being bisexual.

Remember, this was 2005. This was an era before Pretty Little Liars, Glee, and even Skins. I was too young to watch The L Word, and queer celebrities seemed to be pathologized by the tabloid magazines I read. There were no blueprints for me, no celebrities or characters that helped me imagine what my life could be like as a bisexual person. I felt like my feelings were invalid. I felt alone.

The Sims was one of the only forms of bisexual representation that was available to me.

Many people used The Sims to act out fantasies. They could be rich, have a dream career, own a house, have children, and get married. For me, The Sims allowed me to act out the fantasy of being bisexual. 

In my universe in The Sims 2, things were wild. Mary-Sue Pleasant, a pre-made Sim, left her cheating husband for Cassandra Goth, her childhood best friend. They had a happy life together in a beautiful home with Mary-Sue’s teenage daughters. Both of those teenage daughters grew up to date both male and females Sims. I created many simulated versions of myself, some of which dated men, some of which dated women, some of which dated both. I nearly always had children, and I nearly always pursued a creative career path. It was pure bliss.

What’s more? Nobody in The Sims cared if one woman dated another. In this fantasy world, where I could escape and create a life that was anything I wanted it to be, I could also be free. Discrimination wasn’t something that existed in this universe.

I’m not saying that games should never touch on real-world issues like heterosexism, racism, or sexism. However, I learnt something by creating a life in a world where oppression didn’t exist. It made me realize that the world we live in – that is, an oppressive one – didn’t have to be this way.

The Sims is moving with the times. In an update in The Sims 4, gender becomes more customizable. One can effectively change their Sim’s from one gender to the next, basically making the Sim transgender. You get to choose a Sim’s physique, voice, fashion preferences, based on your own ideas and not the gender binary.

It’s so queer- and trans-friendly, it was given an ‘adults only’ rating in Russia. For kids who are gender non-conforming, trans and/or non-binary, this sort of representation can be amazing. It’s still not perfect in terms of representation, but it’s certainly way better than many other games.

The greater lesson here is that representation matters. Games influence us, and as a queer kid, it meant the world to me to have some kind of representation in the games I played. The Sims showed me what the world could be like if we rejected heteronormativity and oppression.

Sims are simple, and humans are unfortunately less so. We can’t type ‘motherlode’ into a cheat box when we’re broke, and we can’t put our arch-nemesis in a ladder-less pool to make them disappear. We certainly have inherent biases, conscious and unconscious, which means that discrimination and oppression exist. 

But we can learn from The Sims.

I have hope that my generation, who grew up with The Sims and other queer-friendly media, will create a world where things are a little easier for queer people.

Love + Sex Love

These 10 signs will tell you how good your relationship REALLY is

No one said that relationships are perfect.

In fact, how can they be? The combination of two or more very different people deciding to make a commitment to one another can be a difficult space to navigate. You won’t always get along, and there won’t always be rose petals on hotel beds every Valentine’s Day.

But there are certain behaviors in relationships that are red flags for significant issues down the line. Abusive behavior manifests itself in ways that both the abuser and abused might not even realize, making it important to seek help when you feel confused or unsure.

And remember: heartbreak, though painful, is completely and totally normal. There are so many different ways to deal with it, but don’t let it scare you into making the right decision for your physical and emotional wellbeing.

1. They keep score.


Like I said, no relationship is perfect. You’ll have your ups and downs, that’s just part of getting to know someone.

But when your partner decides to keep a metaphorical ‘scorecard’ of every bad thing you ever did in your relationship, it’s time to consider whether or not they’re really happy being with you. Scorecard keeping is a sign that your partner may be unhappy but settled. It can also hint that they enjoy bringing up the past to put you down.

Healthy relationships mean having to forgive the past and move on.

2. They refuse to compromise.


Compromises are an important part of any relationship, and not just the small things either.

For example, if every time you go out on a date you’re doing what your partner wants to do, that might implicate that they don’t really care about your desires, your likes, and dislikes. They’re happy so long as they get their way, and that can have severe implications in the future.

Imagine that you’re both still paying off student loans but your partner decides to buy a new car without consulting with you. Or you want to have kids somewhere down the line but your partner won’t even entertain the conversation. All these big, important life decisions cannot be made by one person only.

Being able to compromise on decisions in a way that both parties can be content with is important for building a healthy, equal relationship.

3. They beat you when you’re down.


Everyone goes through rough times every now and then. It could be failing a test, losing a best friend or even being retrenched. Having a partner who will be there to support you through those tough times is fundamental for any healthy relationship.

But if your partner blames you for your difficulties, puts pressure on you to get over it or fix the situation, it is possible that they don’t really care about your emotional and mental wellbeing.

Tough times like the ones mentioned above can alter a person’s mental health for good. Many of us suffer from depression and anxiety because of the stresses of modern life. And you’re going to need someone who’s going to have your back; for better and worse.

4. They feel entitled to sex.


Consent. Consent. Consent.

A date does not entitle you to sex. Three months of dating does not entitle you to sex. Marriage does not entitle you to sex. Every single time you engage in sex with your partner or partners, each person needs to give their consent.

If you are in a relationship where someone is pressuring you to have sex when you’re not ready, or even when you just don’t feel like, that is constituted as sexual harassment. If they coerce or force you into sex, no matter what kind, it is considered rape.

If this happens to you, seek help immediately. Find a trusted friend or family member to turn to, or reach out to national hotlines and help centers for support. You can get out.

5. They cheat.


Of course, Beyoncé can forgive Jay-Z for cheating on her if she wants to, that’s her prerogative and it’s yours too.

But what I want to address here is cheating in polyamorous relationships. There are many misconceptions about polyamory, like believing that it involves no commitment or communication about sexual partners. In reality, it is possible to cheat in a polyamorous relationship. When a set of boundaries is established, they have to be respected. Partners who deviate from those boundaries are violating the trust of that relationship. In other words: cheating.

This goes for monogamous relationships too. For some, dancing with someone else at a club is not considered cheating. For others, mild flirting can be considered grounds for breaking up. Establish those boundaries and make sure that both you and your partner respect them.

6. They give you ultimatums.


“It’s either me or x-important-thing-in-your-life.” is the worst thing you could hear from a significant other.

Your partner could expect you to give up education, work, lifelong dreams, family and friends for them, and none of it is okay. But of course, we need to look at context.

For example, in same-sex relationships where one partner’s family is homophobic, it can be difficult to deal with that kind of rejection and animosity. But if you love your family and want them in your life, no one can ask you to give them up. Instead, you can work through it together and find a solution that doesn’t involve distancing yourself from those you love.

7. They try to fix your problems with marriage or kids.


Let’s be honest: lifelong commitments like marriage and kids will not solve your problems.

Sure, you may be going through a rough patch at the moment, but binding yourself to your partner is not going to solve anything. In fact, it is most likely going to result in resentment.

When it comes to marriage, of course you have the option to divorce or annul. But children are a no-going-back commitment. When you make the decision to bring a child into this world, you do it with the understanding that this kid is a whole human being, not an arts-and-crafts “I’m sorry!” card to stick in the middle of a feuding relationship.

8. They refuse to acknowledge their privilege.


My fiancé is white and I’m Indian, and to cut a long story short, our differences in race have been an issue.

When your partner has certain privileges that you don’t have it is important to acknowledge and talk about that with an understanding of systemic oppression. When my partner and I met we were just 16 and 17 years old, and barely knew how to comprehend our this.

But now that we’re older and wiser about issues like white privilege, we are able to talk about it openly and honestly. When I experience discrimination (because yes, racism does exist) I need my partner to be there for me. Not to defend white people’s actions with a young #notallwhites, but to listen and empathize with my situation. And hell, even defend me in the arena.

9. They verbally and physically abuse you.


Of course, any kind of verbal and physical assault is completely and totally wrong.

Your partner hurling insults and curse words is abuse.

Your partner hitting, punching or pinching you in any way is abuse. Things like throwing objects in your direction is also abuse. In fact, anything that puts your physical being in danger is considered abuse.

If this happens to you, seek help immediately. Find a trusted friend or family member to turn to, or reach out to national hotlines and help centers for support. You can get out.

10. They can’t accept change.


Repeat after me: everyone changes.

It is ridiculous for someone to expect you to remain the same from the time they meet you till five years down the line. People can even change from month to month, that’s a normal part of being a human being. You know what is strange though? Expecting someone to look and act the same way they did in high school, when they’re 28 years old.

Your partner being unable to accept change can be a sign that they aren’t happy with your growth. And if they simply aren’t happy with the person you’ve become, that’s normal too. It’s okay to break up with someone when transitioning into different stages of your life, in fact, it’s very, very normal.