What To Know Before Your First LGBTQ Pride Event

Ah, Pride Month! As a lesbian myself, June definitely has a special place in my heart. I've gone to a number of Pride events over the years; indeed, I've been lucky enough to attend them in different cities across the East Coast, including my home city of Boston, a handful in New York, and some in my current city, Washington, D.C. Looking back, though, there are definitely a few things I wish I'd known before attending my first Pride event.

No matter where you attend Pride, you're going to get a great taste of the local flavor and community — which is actually one of my favorite aspects of Pride, period: It feels really organic and true to life. Sure, there are some things that never really change from year to year (glitter and rainbows, anyone?), but I would argue that the most important element of the month-long celebration is what does morph over time: Pride is a place where you can see the diversity and representation of the vast array of people in that community. From food trucks supporting local businesses to entire families that walk together in the Pride Parade, there are few things more heartwarming than seeing a community come together to celebrate diversity and inclusivity.

Still, there are a lot of key elements that all Pride events have in common (aside from the obvious of, you know, celebrating LGBTQ+ people and the overall queer community), and there are a lot of things you'll notice as a first-timer at Pride that you may wish you had known sooner:

1. You Can Go Alone

Seriously: You can go to Pride events alone. Yes, it's definitely a community feel, but you can absolutely go to any of the events you want all by yourself. Want to go to a happy hour without your friends? Go for it! Want to watch the parade, but none of your friends will meet you in the city? Go anyway! No one is going to think you're weird or uncool for attending an event by yourself. In fact, people are generally there to meet others, whether for friendship, romance, or just casual conversation, so if you're interested in meeting new people, hitting up a few Pride events by yourself is definitely not a bad move.

2. You Can Bring Your Friends, Whether They're LGBTQ Or Not

Have a bunch of heterosexual and cisgender friends who want to come to Pride? You can bring them! Of course, it's always a good idea to talk to them about the importance of Pride and what it means for the LGBTQ community (no, it isn't just a big party). It's also important to talk to straight and cisgender allies about what is and isn't appropriate in a queer space and how to be respectful when others are sharing personal aspects of their identities in public. But if all of that is settled and you feel comfortable bringing your pals, do it! Pride events welcome everyone, LGBTQ or not, so don't feel like you have to leave your straight or cis buddies at home if they're hankering to share a new experience with you and support you.

3. You Don't Have To Drink (But You Can If You Want To)

A lot of Pride events involve drinking. You'll see Happy Hours galore, as well as events held in bars, restaurants, and clubs. If you enjoy drinking, have fun! If you prefer not to drink for whatever reason, know that you don't have to. Seriously — you don't have to drink to have a good time at Pride, and no one is going to judge you if you don't partake.

4. Research The Locations Beforehand

Pride events can cover a large amount of space, so it's always a good idea to figure out your game plan ahead of time. Do you want to be near the beginning of the Parade, the middle, or the end, for example? Do you want to hit up a cluster of bars and restaurants for happy hour, or stick to one that's out of the major crowd? Phones make figuring this out easier on the go, but Pride can get really crowded and busy depending on where you are; as such, it's not a bad idea to do some research beforehand if you're a complete newcomer to the activities (or even if you're a veteran). This is also good if you know you want a certain vibe out of your locations and events and want to target your experience towards that.

5. Expect The Unexpected

The first time I went to Pride, I was hyper-aware that someone I knew distantly could recognize me. You know, a former classmate you hadn't seen since the second grade or that substitute teacher you had in middle school? Yeah, those people. Surprise: You might run into them at Pride! They might be marching in the Parade, dressed up in full rainbow apparel, or be in attendence with their partner. The key is to make sure you give others the respect you'd like in return — simply attending Pride doesn't mean anything about anyone's sexual orientation or identity, so it's important not to make assumptions or spread rumors based on what someone does or doesn't do at a Pride event. Give others the respect and privacy you'd want in return — and remember that Pride is a celebration of ourselves and what makes us unique. Have fun!

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