Normally, Pride is a time of colorful celebration, loving solidarity and togetherness – usually in the form of a giant party. This year, everything is different: there won’t be any parties, parades and festivals for a while. Instead, a lot of the celebrations have gone online. 

Pride Month is also happening under the shadow of events unfolding across the US and many other countries, spurred by the heartbreakingly brutal killing of George Floyd. As current global events show, the fight for freedom – for many marginalised social groups – is nowhere near finished.

Freedom is the core value upon which Grover was built and we will always champion it, both as a business and as individuals. Likewise, we will always support and advocate for  all of our customers, employees and allies, regardless of gender, origin, or sexual orientation. One of the ways we can do that  is by amplifying marginalized voices. We spoke to two of Grover’s LGBTQ team members, Nina and Lucas, on their perspectives on Pride this year, and about their personal experiences being part of the LGBTQ community.

 

Lucas: “I am always up for hanging out with people that don’t 100% accept me. They are usually the ones who most desperately need a patient, queer friend. I like to think of them as future allies.”

 

Tell us about your background. What brings you to Berlin? 

NINA: My family has lived in Berlin for six or seven generations, so I’ve always been in and around Berlin. We actually have photos of one of my ancestors, who was a zookeeper at the Berlin Zoo, with bear cubs. And one of my great grandmothers worked at the Adlon Hotel.
I moved back and forth a couple of times between Berlin and Brandenburg when I was younger – I think because my parents wanted to make sure my sister and I weren’t growing up to be the types of city kids who don’t know milk comes from cows. I eventually moved back to Berlin full-time when I started university. One thing I really appreciate about Berlin is that no one really cares about you in particular, which isn’t the best when it comes to community, but it does mean you get a lot of freedom in how you choose to express yourself.

 

LUCAS: I originally come from a city in the northeast part of Brazil called Fortaleza. I spent a big part of my adult life in San Francisco, California, though, after which I moved to Berlin. Out of all the places I’ve lived, I feel most comfortable in Berlin. In other places, being gay feels a bit like it’s your business card – it’s the first thing people notice about you. Here in Berlin, nobody really cares. No one pays your sexuality any attention. This was one of the reasons I moved to Berlin, actually: the idea that it doesn’t matter who or “what” you are. 

 

Can you share a moment or experience that shaped you?

LUCAS: I came out when I was 19, in a very conservative area of Brazil. At the time, I was the host of a TV news broadcast. Coming out while being a public person was very challenging for me. I did something different from the norm, and, because of my job, everyone knew about it. I remember actually having to have conversations about my coming out with my bosses because viewers had found it. It felt like I was exposing myself, along with my company and my family. 

I learned two things from that situation: the first is that there is a big difference between acceptance and respect; being a proud gay man does not mean everyone has to accept me or my choices. But I have to be strong enough to demand that people respect me. The second thing is that there is only one opinion about myself that matters. And that is my own. If I live my life with grace, compassion and an open mind, things will probably work out.

 

I do find that if I present myself as a confident, friendly, and secure person, others will respond to me more positively. It’s a way to break through people’s preconceptions and stereotypes. Of course, the problem with that is that I can pass as a straight man in many situations, and thereby “ease people into” what being a gay man is, by being friendly and confident, but not too flashy or flamboyant. Many gay men aren’t able to do that, and they shouldn’t have to. Sometimes I feel like it’s my responsibility – as a gay man who can pass – to advocate for those who can’t. I am always up for hanging out with people that don’t 100% accept me. They are usually the ones who most desperately need a patient, queer friend. I like to think of them as future allies. 

 

 

NINA: I identify as Agender, which is an identity under the nonbinary umbrella term. The definition for Agender varies from person to person, but for me it just means “no gender” – that gender doesn’t work for me. I don’t feel femininity or masculinity at all. Those concepts don’t invoke any emotion or strong connection within me. 

Understanding this part of my identity took me a long time and was an experience that shaped my whole life. In school, I had the feeling that I didn’t really know myself, but I also didn’t quite know how to solve this. I found myself flip-flopping between two extreme styles: one very feminine – with dresses, lots of makeup and jewelry – and one very masculine – with baggy sweaters and a half-shaved head; I even wore a man-bun for a time. Back then, it would have helped me so much to know that there is more than the heteronormative binary – something beyond the standard identities of man and woman. The best way I can describe it, is that I always felt like I was playing a role, but never really being myself.

It’s through Tumblr that I found out that there was something more beyond the binary, when I was around 14 years old. It was the first time I came across non-cisgender people who were saying exactly what I hadn’t been able to express: “I don’t want to choose or even think about gender.” That was really refreshing. 

After that, it still took me a long while to figure out that things like clothes and haircuts have nothing to do with my gender – that they’re just an expression of myself. The more I live and figure myself out, the more I come to terms with that. However, I think identifying as any kind of nonbinary person is still hard for most people, because you don’thave an image or blueprint you can use as a reference. There’s no template.There aren’t many commonly-understood symbols we can use to signal to people what we’re all about. There’s also no such thing as “passing” in the non-binary space, nothing to strive toward. Except maybe that other people are confused about you. And a few years ago that was important to me, too. Now it doesn’t matter to me as much because I don’t care what gender people perceive me as; that’s their own business. As long as I’m comfortable in my own skin and wear and do the things that make me happy, I’m content with that. However, I’m also keenly aware that that’s a privileged position to be in – that I like wearing women’s clothes and don’t mind when people identify me as a woman. 

 

Nina: “There’s no such thing as ‘passing’ in the non-binary space, nothing to strive toward. Except maybe that other people are confused about you.”

 

What does Pride mean to you and how have you celebrated in past years?

NINA: I’ve gone to a few Pride celebrations these past years, but they were usually smaller events. I don’t really identify with the typical Pride parade feeling. For me, Pride has more to do with discussion, discourse and activism, and less with celebration.

But I think the celebration part of it is still a wonderful thing because it shows progress. We have this day where we don’t need to think about all of our hardship and can celebrate who we really are. A lot of media about LGTBQ people is about the hardship and the trauma, so I think it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate. 

LUCAS: For me, Pride is the moment in a year when our [the LGBTQ community’s] voices are loudest and our vision for a more inclusive future is possible. Pride began as a protest, and evolved into a celebration. We shouldn’t forget that the rights we now enjoy came from decades of tears and fighting. I see Pride as a time when it’s possible to change someone’s perception on what love and freedom of identity truly are.
In the past years, I’ve celebrated Pride in Brazil, the US and even in Tel Aviv, which was incredible! I have a very special connection to Pride in Berlin, because it’s where my partner and I had our first date a couple of years ago.

 

This year, Pride will no doubt be different than in previous years. What is your perspective on Pride in 2020? How are you celebrating it given what’s going on?

LUCAS: 2020 didn’t hold anything back, right? It came with so much heartbreak and tragedy happening everywhere. We now seem to be waking up to the reality that the people in power often do not have the right answers for… well, anything, really. We are realizing the power of collective action, and how much we need to be looking out for one another and our rights. It’s when people get complacent that bad things happen. So what’s happening right now is a giant wake-up call.
What I think is important is that the Black Lives Matter movement is shining a huge spotlight on the fragility of the lives of Black trans people. Society has turned its back on them for a long time. Our trans brothers and sisters are at the bottom of the social hierarchy, falling victim to systemic prejudice, social exclusion, and often being abandoned by their families. They are the most vulnerable of Black lives.

NINA: I’m not going to be celebrating Pride as much this year. What I’ve been trying to do is support people where I can. A lot of that is donating to causes. With the Black Lives Matter movement, I feel like I can be most useful by showing my support and giving resources to people that need them right now.
What this year has brought to the fore is that we can’t think about Pride without thinking about BIPOC and especially trans BIWOC. They were the ones who started the Stonewall riots. They’re still one of the most marginalized groups in society. 

 

Do you see positive points in Pride being largely an online event this year?

NINA: I don’t think it’s especially good or bad. I think it’s just…necessary. Of course, all digital spaces have their pros and cons.

LUCAS: It will definitely be very different than it usually is; no dancing on the streets with friends, no big celebrations or protests. But with the “party aspect” of Pride taking a back seat, it will give more of us a chance to put our money where our mouth is  and donate. This year is the time to donate to queer bars, clubs and organizations that have been hard hit by coronavirus. Also, Pride going online has given rise to all new formats that otherwise wouldn’t have happened, and they are just a click away. This year, you can access Pride from wherever you are!