Pride with no Parade: Celebrating Queer history in an Arizona summer
Summer heat in Arizona can make most places feel abandoned, and ASU’s campus is no exception. It drives people into their houses, into backyard pools, or out of town entirely.
For me, a life-long Arizona resident and out queer individual of nearly ten years, this can make Pride month feel like its happening everywhere in the nation except the state I live in. The heat robs us of most summer Pride celebrations, simply because it's too hot to safely participate in large, outdoor activities like a parade. Instead, our largest celebration occurs mid-October, when it’s usually cool enough to allow for the big, blowout party that we’ve been looking forward to all year.
As I entered college, I thought maybe on-campus activities would lessen this annual isolation. But as I experience my third summer as a college student, I’m forced to reckon with the reality that Pride is not going to find me. I need to seek it out.
That journey is more difficult for some than others. As someone who doesn’t appear visibly queer day to day, I have struggled in the past to be accepted in existing queer spaces, even ones that I had a personal hand in creating. So entering a smaller, more exclusive queer space than a massive pride celebration can be intimidating, I’m almost always afraid of the very real possibility that someone will force me to defend my own identity or prove myself to the group I already know I belong to.
My first recommendation to counter this isolation is to search for queer community spaces and groups that share an interest or trait outside of simply being queer. This may sound counterintuitive, but the queer community to so large and so diverse, that if you truly want to connect to the people around you, a bond stronger than simply existing in the same space is going to help.
Certain clubs on ASU’s campus are a great example of this. Aspec Alliance, a club dedicated to creating a safe space for asexual, aromantic, and agender students, narrows the field of the queer community it is engaging with, bringing the people within that community closer together and building strong bonds as a result. ASU TransFam provides the same support to ASU’s trans student population. By connecting with these more specific communities, queer students can make friends and plan a private, safe celebration of Pride month with their personal community during the summer.
“During Covid, I joined and helped found Aspec Alliance,” said Annie Graziano, a senior studying mechanical engineering and creative writing. “I could engage with the queer community and my academics at the same time, which is super helpful and super validating, so having an on-campus connection like that was really important to me.”
Outside of merely clubs for specific identities, there are also clubs that explore queer interests. The LGBTQ+ Interaction Club provides students with opportunities to volunteer for the queer community, which is an excellent way to honor our history and culture during Pride month.
All of this sounds great, but joining a club over the summer can be difficult, and there’s no guarantee that a club will maintain activity over the summer, which leaves many queer Sun Devils with a very important question: What do we do in June when there is, seemingly, no opportunity to celebrate?
My answer is this: There is always an opportunity to celebrate. Queer people have lived here since before the state was founded, so there is always a way to connect with that past.
This article from Downtown Phoenix lists just a few of the locations that have historical significance to the queer community. I’d also encourage anyone seeking connection and community to explore the Arizona Queer Archives, which is an excellent resource to learn more about our shared history and values.
Better yet, visit some of our local queer organizations like One-N-Ten, Trans Queer Pueblo, or Trans Spectrum of Arizona to find volunteering opportunities and other ways to support the members of our community who most need it.
Pride isn’t just a party. It’s a celebration of our history and survival as a community, and to fully appreciate that community and past, it’s critical that we reach out to each other through clubs, organizations, and other events.
“My other queer friends, my girlfriend and I, we watch a lot of queer content,” said Molly Streppa, an ASU senior studying art education. “I try to support queer creators, especially BIPOC queer creators, on TikTok and other platforms. It’s always important to do that, but I pay extra attention during Pride month.”
Your celebration of Pride can be personal and quiet, it can be you, alone in your room with a book about lesbianism in the 80’s. It can be you and your friends watching The Birdcage (1996) or visiting one of Arizona’s many drag shows together. Maybe your queer club of choice hosts an online Mario Kart tournament, or any other activity you could participate in.
Just remember to reach out, celebrate with the people around you, and connect to the history that allowed us to reach this point.