Editor’s note: Wel­come to The Pan­dem­ic is Per­son­al, a week­ly series focus­ing on on how the nov­el coro­n­avirus (SARS-CoV­­‑2) is affect­ing the every­day lives of peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west. We hope to enlight­en you and reflect on what you and oth­ers are address­ing as this pan­dem­ic runs its course.

If you have a sto­ry to tell, please feel free to con­tact us.

Jef­frey Robin­son is the chair of the Franklin Coun­ty Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee and the Chair of Chairs for the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Chairs Orga­ni­za­tion. In addi­tion to being a proud Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty leader, he is also an out­spo­ken LGBTQ+ civ­il rights advo­cate. Cur­rent­ly he lives and works in Franklin County.

To be a mem­ber of the LGBTQ+ com­mu­ni­ty is to car­ry with­in you a pow­er­ful her­itage that cross­es every cor­ner of the globe and that has helped shape history.

This great her­itage exists in every part of the human expe­ri­ence and has endured the wrath of empires, plagues, and unique forms of per­se­cu­tion such as insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion. To be a mem­ber of the LGBTQ+ com­mu­ni­ty is to car­ry with­in you the spir­it of a phoenix ris­ing from ash.

We live in dif­fi­cult times. Often, being who we are feels like we are in a state of per­pet­u­al siege. To be dif­fer­ent in the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca of 2020 is to be on the front lines of a cul­ture war all too sim­i­lar to those our com­mu­ni­ty has faced through­out its his­to­ry. Yet if past is indeed pro­logue, if his­to­ry does indeed repeat, then there is lit­tle doubt we shall overcome.

In my role as a Demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­ty chair, I often hear from those who feel the bur­den of our times. “COVID-19 is killing us” they tell me. “PRIDE just isn’t the same this year.” I hear their pain, I see the agony of their iso­la­tion, and their desire to hon­or the spe­cial his­to­ry of this extra­or­di­nary holiday.

I see them watch a world in tur­moil and feel the res­ig­na­tion of their hearts.

In so many ways their thoughts are my own, their pain is a part of my reality.

How­ev­er, after lis­ten­ing to them and shar­ing their feel­ings, I rise and offer them a dif­fer­ent vision of where we are.

We sur­vived the HIV/AIDS epi­dem­ic, I remind them.

In the Age of Trump, the right wing major­i­ty on the Unit­ed States Supreme Court ruled that Title VII applies to peo­ple like us.

Trans­gen­der peo­ple and those out­side the het­­ero-nor­­ma­­tive gen­der bina­ry are find­ing their pow­er. As I write this arti­cle, the lead­er­ship of the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is dom­i­nat­ed by mem­bers of the LGBTQ+ com­mu­ni­ty, and peo­ple like me serve in lead­er­ship posi­tions on a local lev­el around the state.

We are gain­ing ground in the most dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, as we always have. We are doing what we will always do, adapt, include, and overcome.

PRIDE Week­end this year may not be like those that have come before.

We won’t get to have parades, the bars are tem­porar­i­ly closed, and we must be phys­i­cal­ly dis­tant from our friends. How­ev­er, the true spir­it of PRIDE is so much big­ger than these things. Each time you live your life with­out apol­o­gy, each time you sup­port the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment, each time you wear that face mask, you hon­or the mean­ing of PRIDE. Each time you speak out against injus­tice, you hon­or the lega­cy of our com­mu­ni­ty and every­thing this hol­i­day stands for. Read­ers, you are the hero we all need, and no virus will ever change that.

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