McMurdo Station looks a lot like any other small town. There are bars, gyms, a firehouse, yoga classes, and basketball games. And like many towns around the world, McMurdo will be celebrating Pride Month this June—an annual event to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots, considered the tipping point in gay liberation in America—but they’ll be doing it in total darkness at minus 20°F. That's because McMurdo Station isn’t in middle America. It's a U.S. research center on Ross Island, Antarctica.
“Being down here, it can feel like you are isolated and alone, and you forget that the world is happening off the ice too,” says Shawn Waldron, an employee in the station’s food and services sector.
But this year, the nearly 140-person, winter-season crew currently stationed at McMurdo is getting in on the global camaraderie with their own Pride Party on June 9, organizing what could be the first celebration of its kind on the icy continent.
McMurdo has held LGBTQ events in the past through monthly socials, for example, where anywhere from two to 20 people—some of whom are LGBTQ-identifying, others who are allies—show up. Still, Waldron and some of the crew believe this may be Antarctica’s first Pride-affiliated celebration. Others at the station, like Hannah Valian and Zachary Morgan, two crew members helping plan the events, are skeptical of that superlative but say the 2018 event could be continent’s largest Pride party to date. McMurdo is expecting 30 to 40 people at the all-inclusive party—an impressive turnout considering the region’s harsh conditions and the reduced winter staffing.
“You will find your community anywhere, even at the ends of the earth,” Waldron says.
Antarctica isn’t the only remote location that honors Pride month. The Falkland Islands, a British overseas territory just off the coast of Argentina, has been celebrating Pride every year since 2013. A few years later in 2017, this tiny archipelago became one the first places in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
The obscure location and small population of the Falklands—just 3,000 residents—underscores how important Pride is all the world over, says Samantha Addison. She and her fellow Falklands Islanders will mark the occasion with street parties, drag shows, and concerts.
“We can’t just jump on a bus or a train or drive somewhere like to Manchester’s Canal Street,” Addison says. But by participating in Pride events, she says the Falklands continues to send messages of love, acceptance, and inclusion to those who need it most on the island and around the world.
Those values are what Lasia Casil hopes to convey in Guam, a largely Catholic island in the Pacific Ocean. Casil, a transgender woman in her 40s, said Pride celebrations in the past were largely marked indoors. After spending years celebrating Pride abroad in Tokyo, New York, and London, Casil returned to Guam and made it her mission to bring the island’s Pride celebrations out of the dark.
Casil founded Guam LGBT Pride, starting with a small festival on the beach in 2016. This June marked the second annual Guam Pride March & Beach Festival, with featured performers and personalities from across Asia, live music, carnival rides, and food trucks.
“Hands down, the most heartwarming thing is when the young people come up to me and thank me for creating a space where they can feel safe, accepted and are able to just be themselves,” Casil says.
Back in Antarctica, McMurdo residents are thinking about the limitless possibilities of Pride celebrations for generations to come.
“I don’t think there are many places more remote than Antarctica, so the next logical remote place to celebrate Pride should be the International Space Station,” Morgan says. “Then maybe on to the moon and Mars.”