Berkeley limits LGBTQ+ celebrations, looks toward year-round inclusivity

Photo of Berkeley Civic Center
David McAllister/Staff
The Berkeley community celebrates Pride differently this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, plans to increase representation and inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community remain.

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Berkeley, a welcoming home to many individuals fleeing communities less tolerant of their sexual orientations, will celebrate its LGBTQ+ community members a bit differently this year.

In a typical year, the Downtown Berkeley Association organizes a Pride Month celebration at the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza while Berkeley’s City Hall displays the Pride flag, according to City Councilmember Terry Taplin. This year, however, all public celebrations have been canceled.

In response, community organizations have found other pandemic-friendly ways to celebrate.

Adeline Yoga, for instance, is hosting a free virtual yoga class June 25 at 5 p.m. to “celebrate community and each other,” according to its website. The class will consist of 45 minutes of yoga followed by 30 minutes of connecting and conversing.

“We’ve never actually had a Pride event, so we are just excited to hold that space,” said Adeline Yoga assistant manager Inbal Meron. “A lot of our student base is from the LGBTQ+ community, so we wanted to celebrate.”

Anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or yoga experience level, is welcome to attend, Meron added. Those interested can register in advance on the website.

In terms of post-pandemic celebration, Taplin would like to see much more in the years to come, including a “genuine” parade, a film and music festival and keynote speeches from LGBTQ+ leaders.

However, such uplifting of the LGBTQ+ community in Berkeley mustn’t wait until next June, according to Taplin. The council can continue to support its LGBTQ+ residents by increasing neighborhood density via affordable housing initiatives. 

“Queer youth and trans people of color are among those most affected by housing insecurity and homelessness,” Taplin said in an email. “Even a marginal improvement in housing affordability would make a huge dent in homelessness, since the average household experiencing homelessness is only unhoused for less than a year due to an inability to make rent payments.”

On the topic of housing, Taplin added even just permitting duplexes, apartment buildings and other forms of multifamily housing to be built has the potential to foster increasingly diverse communities.

Beyond housing policy, nontraditional families and household structures should be recognized in all legal institutions and legislation such as paid leave policies, Taplin said. He added that he and the rest of the LGBTQ+ community deserve to see their dreams of inclusive communities come to fruition.

“We have come a long way since Berkeley became the first city to provide benefits to same-sex domestic partnerships in 1984, but recognize that the struggle for true equality continues,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín in an email. “With the state reopening, we are now in a position to be able to celebrate pride together, and encourage people to celebrate responsibly.”

Contact Veronica Roseborough at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @v_roseborough.