Pride Month came and went this year with a light whisper as the COVID-19 pandemic stopped many of the month's celebrations in its tracks.

Many of the CSRA's LGBTQ organizations as well have continued supporting their members at a distance, having canceled club meetings and usual services during the height of the pandemic. 

Aiken's most well-known LGBTQ organizations, PFLAG – which stands for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – has managed to continue its mission to bring support to the area's LGBTQ through available online forums.

"We have been working on expanding information on our website on how to be connected in order to receive a ZOOM invite at least until early fall," said Aiken PFLAG President Julie Evonna in early June.

Aiken's PFLAG established its chapter in March 2012, Evonna said, and usually has up to 25 people in its monthly meeting. Meetings are usually held at the Aiken Unitarian Universalist Church, a congregation notable for including not only people of different faiths in its services, but also members of the LGBTQ community. 

Having the chapter opens up a needed support group for Aiken's and other surrounding areas LGBTQ community and allies, and also opens up a gateway to connect and educate other members outside the community.

"People find us through our social media ... and we are always open to questions," Evonna said. "Almost any question is going to be well received in order to [help others] understand more about our community."

Such inclusiveness has recently been shaken with the cancellations of major LGBTQ community events, such as the Augusta Pride parade – the closest and most accessible of the CSRA's pride month celebrations for Aiken.

Rather than electing to reschedule the event for fall, the parade's organizers, the Primary Mission of Augusta Pride, have decided to wait until June 2021 to retain the parade's historical significance of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, as well as to account for other sponsored events planned for the fall. 

The Stonewall Riots were spurred after police raided The Stonewall Inn, a prominent gay club in New York City. The raid sparked six days of protests and clashes with police in the surrounding area which gained national attention from around the country. The riots would help inspire future protests around the country for LGBTQ rights, as well as help lead to the construction of organizations such as GLAAD and PFLAG.

With such events and group meetings on hold, social media has become the primary way PFLAG members have kept in touch during the last several months.

Debra Guthrie, minister at Aiken Unitarian Universalist Church, noted that while such practices are hardly the norm, the digital aspect of the coronavirus pandemic still allows many people to connect to others who may not have been accessible. 

"If we look at the need for medical distancing in the right light, we can see that it actually holds a great deal of potential for us to reach out virtually in ways we never could before," Guthrie said. "We have the privilege and the opportunity to join online groups that were once unavailable to us because of distance."

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