When it comes to celebrating LGBTQ Pride during the month of June, there's a lot of learning and fun to be had within the queer community. That said, there's always room for our allies during Pride Month, which leads us to an interesting discussion: How can you be a good ally at Pride?
If you're an ally to the queer community in your daily life, you probably already know the basics: Don't use slurs about someone's sexual orientation or identity, don't rely on stereotypes to influence your perspective on someone, and don't expect someone to share intimate details about their lives or identity (such as the dreaded "When did you know you were gay?" question) the first time you meet them. But where do you go from there?
Whether you're a solo ally at Pride or you're there with friends, family, your partner, your colleagues, or whomever, it's important to remember that no guide (not even this one!) will entirely predict how those around you will react, or what their comfort level may be. It's important to remember that for many members of the queer community, Pride events function as a safe-space, where people feel comfortable being themselves and embracing aspects of their identity that they might not always be free to. With that in mind, it's important to remember to be considerate and mindful of your presence and your language when you're in a designated queer space.
The following list of suggestions on how to check your privilege as an ally when entering queer spaces during Pride Month might help. Again, it's by no means exhaustive — I of course can't speak for all LGBTQ people — but it's a good place to start.
1. Accept That Pride Is Not About You
The LGBTQ community needs allies, no doubt about it, and I think it's safe to say that we appreciate all of our allies, whether they're fighting with us on the front lines, working to educate others about the queer community, or just offering a shoulder to cry on. That said, Pride is about celebrating the LGBTQ community — not necessarily our allies. This distinction is important.
It's therefore a good move before you arrive at a Pride event to acknowledge to yourself that while you're certainly welcome to be there, you aren't the star of the show. Pride events are about honoring the struggles of the queer community, forming bonds, and fighting for visibility. Allies have always been there for us, and are endlessly important, but they are not the primary focus of Pride.
2. Remember That Pride Is Not Just A Party
Like I mentioned eariler, Pride is about honoring the queer community who came before us, as well as respecting those who are fighting for better legal protections and societal acceptance for the LGBTQ community. Sure, Pride events tend to be super fun, but the point of Pride is not just to have a big party and dress up in rainbow colors. Depending on the particular event you're at, Pride can even become somber, where people are reflective of past or current struggles, or are looking for others with whom they can bond over particular obstacles. This is definitely a time where you need to "feel" the room, so to speak, and know whether or not it's a good time to break out the rainbow glitter.
3. What Happens At Pride, Stays At Pride
When you see someone at Pride (say, a teacher of yours from high school or someone who lives in your apartment building), it's important to remember that their presence at a particular Pride event doesn't necessarily mean anything about their orientation or identity. Sure, they could indeed be a member of the queer community; however, they might just as easily be an ally, attending with a friend, attending but not necessarily out, or any number of other possibilities. Indeed, for many people, being out in all aspects of their life (such as to their employer) can put them in risky, if not dangerous, situations; as such, respect that when you run into someone at Pride, this might even be the one time of year they're out.
But no matter what the case, it's no one's place to draw conclusions about anyone — something which is true both in life and during Pride. What you see at Pride isn't fodder for a story you can tell to others later on.
4. Embrace The Full Spectrum Of Diversity
Whether it's the way someone is dressed, an identity that someone is celebrating, or actions that can only be described as unique, Pride is full of new experiences that you may not have experienced before. And that's OK! Just be prepared to embrace the full spectrum of diversity when it comes to orientation, identity, and expression, and check your preconceived notions of what it means to be "queer" or "queer-identitied" before you arrive.
5. Watch Your Language
As a lesbian myself, this one is a big one for me. For example, many cities will host a Dyke March as part of their annual Pride celebrations. While many lesbians and queer women embrace the word "dyke" in an effort to reclaim it, there are just as many women who dislike the term or don't use it themselves. If you happen to find yourself at the Dyke March and you're a straight ally, please don't use the word "dyke" in reference to those around you. Even if others are using it, it is not yours to reclaim, and not everyone will appreciate hearing the word, period, no matter who is saying it. This is true for words that are often used as slurs across the board, even those which people or groups may be reclaiming — better safe than sorry, and in this case, it's best just to listen and abstain from using certain charged words or phrases yourself.
Happy Pride, everyone!
Images: Giphy (5)