Pride 2020: “What celebrating means to me as a black LGBTQ+ woman today”

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Drag king performer Isabel Adomakoh Young discusses what Pride 2020 means to her as a black LGBTQ+ woman in the UK today.

This year is proving to be the most challenging in a generation. From the Australian bush fires to the coronavirus pandemic and George Floyd’s murder, it’s been full of devastation and frustration. But it’s important to keep hope: lessons can be learned, changes can be actioned. That’s why it’s vital we continue Pride Month celebrations, even if it means doing things a little differently in 2020.

Although the physical element of these celebrations – the parades, parties and hugs – are off limits, there are still plenty of ways to take part and proudly support the LGBTQ+ community. Pride Inside, an online series of gigs, comedy shows, panel discussions, and arts-based events, is just one way to get involved. And Pride in London is launching a brand new digital community hub to galvanise people into doing much-needed ‘Acts of Allyship’.

For queer actor and drag king artist Isabel Adomakoh Young, celebrating Pride 2020 includes taking part in a brilliant new podcast series, Anthems. An episode is released each day during June, featuring an LGBTQ+ guest who reads out a self-penned essay focusing on a word that strongly means something to them.

Adomakoh Young is an intersectional feminist who regularly performs in the all-female and non-binary drag collective Pecs Drag Kings. She is also the founding director of Brainchild, an award-winning multidisciplinary summer festival seeking to blur the boundaries between artist and audience. Choosing “give” as her word in the podcast, Adomakoh Young talks about finding her true authentic self through drag and explains what king-ing means to her.

“Being in the world of drag, both in the creative sense and practical sense of queer venues, definitely helped me understand my sexuality better,” she tells Stylist over the phone. 

“And we spent a lot of time exploring masculinity and thinking about why we think certain things are masculine or why they aren’t – testing out how masculine associated physicality and behaviour feels and looks on our bodies.

“This was in my late teens and early 20s, taking up space and being more vocal. Once I tried being this kind of big, front-footed, sexually confident man, I could see how those behaviours felt in me, and actually I felt a lot more comfortable than I thought, so kept it.”

Here, Adomakoh Young talks to Stylist about what Pride Month means in 2020.

What does Pride mean to you and the LGBTQ+ community during the pandemic?

“I’m optimistic about Pride and queer people’s ability to overcome the current challenges. It’s strange in some ways because literally everyone is going through a level of trauma. These are things that queer people have had to deal with in most countries around the world for a huge amount of history. So we are very well equipped with what’s happening, in some ways, to come together and overcome it. 

“Obviously the challenges of right now are that we can’t do that in a physical way. But necessity is the mother of invention. We need each other and we’re there for each other.

“What’s really been brought home for the community is the issues around Covid-19 that are specific to queer people: when you look at the figures for domestic violence, including queer people who have to almost go ‘back in the closet’ in order to keep themselves safe in a family environment where they can’t be there authentic selves. I think a lot of stories like that are going to come out once we’re on the other side.

“It’s worrying but I guess in some ways it’s really lucky that Pride is now because it means we can be even more active in our reaching out to one another and more vocal about loving each other.”

Pride 2020 celebrations
Pride 2020: what it means to celebrate as a black LGBTQ+ woman this year.

How have the Black Lives Matter protests affected you as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?

“My personal view is that no movement for one intersection is sufficient without an acknowledgement of other intersections. All the best parts of Black Lives Matter are actively queer-positive and LGBTQ+ inclusive, with those people at the core. 

“Indeed, in terms of our history, those people have often been the leaders in this movement, like Marsha P. Johnson and the Stonewall uprising, who are getting lots of shout outs at the moment. And it’s really important to remember that history. 

“I hope that, while we’re looking critically at the structures in our society – particularly on the intersection of race, we can take that critical view, expand it and think of what other elements of our system, as it currently stands, we can abandon in this strange new world that we’re going to have to build.”

How can we support and celebrate Pride during the coronavirus pandemic?

“The party element of Pride has been appreciated by lots of people who wouldn’t include themselves in those [LGBTQ+] brackets. I’ll be very interested to see whether people commit themselves to supporting Pride now as much as they would have done by buying beers at those parties in Soho. 

“I’d like to see people still donating that money and being very vocal about their support. Beyond that, doing practical things to help. If you can train to work on a helpline, do that. If you have money to spare, donate that. If you don’t have time or money, check in with a friend who’s queer and make sure that they’re OK. There are so many ways to help and I hope people take the time to think about what they can do.”

You can listen to Isabel Adomakoh Young’s Anthems podcast episode below.

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Images: Top image by Izzy Dempsey, isecond image by Bruce Wang

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…