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Interview with Reginald Harris

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Due to the coronavirus, many pride parades and in person events have been canceled. But for many people, these events in June are something they look forward to all year. Last year at World Pride in New York City, millions gathered from around the world to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, which is marked as the event that sparked the modern LGBTQ+ Civil Rights movement. Just a year later, amid a pandemic, I thought it might be helpful to do a deep dive on the impact the cancelation has on the queer community. In order to do so, I talked with Mr. Reginal Harris who filled me in on many of the experiences queer people are having during this hard time and the various things people in that community are doing to  cope with cancellations or shifts to virtual pride activities. 

I am aware that you have done work regarding LGTBQIA mental health, so what conversations have you been having with this community since the COVID crisis? 

  • The conversations in the LGTBQIA community since the COVID crisis, mirror conversations held in larger communities regarding isolation. During this hard time, many people are in unique living circumstances. For many queer people this is their chosen family. As a result, discomfort and tense relationships with family can be created, especially if their families are not accepting. Not living in the same place is very challenging to navigate especially as the people they live with are their primary sense of social and emotional stability. For other queer people, this time means aquessing and hiding htemselves in order to achieve a less tense or stressfu day caused by families reactions to their true identity. 

How has this new normal and new conditions affected the coming out process of LGTBQIA youth?

  • Generally, that process is aided by distance. People create chosen families where they are and can more strategically and carefully decide when or how to tell immediate family members, given expected levels of acceptance or rejection. However, during the times of quarantine, folks are with their families. This intense introduction of their true selves to their family and navigating stuff that comes up in close quarters can be very challenging. If things don’t go so well, it can be damaging or, at worst, abusive or traumatic.

From your observations, what have been common, immediate reactions in the LGTBQIA community to the cancellation of the pride parade? 

  • Many LGTQIA people’s initial reactions to the cancelation of the pride parade was a general sense of sadness. For any group of people, part of their identity and their celebrations are part of these annual occurrences which benchmark events, times, and places in their lives. While queer people will find a new way to celebrate pride month, not being able to experience the true pride month is dissapointing. However, queer people are understand the cancelation when thinking about the greater good in terms of saftey and the health of eachother. 

Now that many people have had some time to adjust, what is the more long term response? 

  • During this year's pride month, fabulous and innovative things are likely to occur. From virtual hangouts, social distant events held in outdoor spacing, to the use of social media, creative, innovative, and adaptive events are on the horizon. Although not in person, these events will be fabulous and innovative and the reimagining will be very fantastic. 

Have you observed that the cancelation had a big impact on their mental health? 

  • The calancelation of in-person pride is a loss of opportunity. For some queer folks who live in smaller towns, pride is the one time of year to come and be immersed in queer culture. As a result, the cancelation is a loss for them because pride is a once a year thing and therefore can have a negative impact. Queer people are deeply social people and while virtual connection may help to rekindle the feelings of pride, they can not replace the in person experience.

What are people doing to cope with the cancelation? 

  • To cope with the cancelation, throughout the month of June people plan to move pride sessions and days online, attend virtual tours and award ceremonies, and finally combine social media and zoom. 

Reginald Harris Biography and Headshot 

  • Reginald Harris, MSW, LISW-S, CTP is a social work strategist, therapist, and arts educator.

  • A former professional ballet dancer with ten years of performing experience, he danced with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Ballet Austin, River North Chicago Dance Company, and Dances Patrelle.

  • As a clinical social worker and nonprofit leader, Reginald has worked in affordable housing, LGBTQ homelessness, housing case management, and behavioral health therapy.

  • As an educator and dance artist, Reginald spent four years working in Chicago’s first public performing arts high school, developing and teaching aspiring young dancers.

  • As a consultant, Reginald trains educators, administrators, and frontline staff on trauma-informed care practices. He also works with organizations on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

  • Reginald received his undergraduate degree from Roosevelt University, and Masters of Social Work from Boston University. 


Reginald Harris, LISW-S, CTP

Advocate for social policy that is centered in equity and incentivizes growth. 

Trainer | Public Speaker | Strategist

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