LGBTQ Allies At Pride Need To Know These 9 Things Before They Go
It's Pride Month, and if you're an ally planning to head to your local Pride parade, whether alone, with other allies, or with a group of LGBTQ friends, you may be wondering exactly what you can do to prep for attending Pride as an ally. Which is why I, your friendly neighborhood queer and trans person, am here to give you the lowdown on how to be a good ally at Pride.
The first thing to know is that allies are certainly welcome at Pride parades, but may not be welcome at all Pride events. Be sure to double-check with the organization that puts together your area's Pride Month events to be sure you're not planning to attend an event that is specifically for transgender women, for example. Some events are specifically intended to be safe spaces for members of groups that are experience particular marginalization, and it's super, super important to respect that.
That being said, you don't have to go to Pride and market yourself as an ally. You don't have to wear a pin or a shirt that points you out as an ally, and you definitely don't have to carry around an "ally pride" or "straight pride" sign.
You should also know that the queer community is not a monolith, and not every queer person is going to agree with this advice, or any other piece of advice in this article. The number one thing you can do as an ally at any Pride event (or, heck, any space in general) is to listen to the queer people who are there and respect what they have to say. Here are some other tips for how to be an ally at Pride.
1. The "A" Isn't For Ally
Going to come at you with a hard truth first, because it's one you're likely to hear over the rest of Pride Month. The "A" in the extended queer acronym "LGBTQIA" doesn't stand for ally, though that's a surprisingly popular misconception. The "A" stands for asexual and aromantic, two often undersupported identities within the queer umbrella.
2. Wearing A Pronoun Pin Is Awesome
As a trans person, nothing makes me happier than seeing cisgender people casually offer up their pronouns, whether that's in their Twitter bio, in their email signature, or upon introduction. Offering up your pronouns by wearing a pronoun pin when you're cis is an excellent way to help trans people normalize the need to stop assuming other people's pronouns. There are tons of cute pins on Etsy, but you can also straight-up just buy one of those "Hello, my name is..." stickers and DIY it.
3. Don't Talk About Politics
There is a time and place to talk about politics, and for the most part, it's so important to be vocal in the face of the injustices taking place daily during this period of American politics. But nothing is more frustrating than trying to celebrate our identities in a safe space, only to have people keep bringing up the latest Bad Opinion from someone who doesn't like queer people. If you're at Pride and trying to make small talk, stick to the weather; believe me, we know about how the Trump administration didn't acknowledge Pride Month for the second year in a row. We don't need to have the daily violence we face rehashed, especially at Pride.
4. Know Pride's Origins
When you're going to Pride, be sure you know its origins. While Pride parades nowadays can often come across as glitter-and-rainbow soaked celebrations, activists who attend them are following in a long line of queer people, particularly trans women of color like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who opened the doors for the queer rights movement at Stonewall. It's OK to be happy and to celebrate, but please be respectful of that history.
5. Go In Judgment-Free
You may see some things you're not expecting at Pride. But no matter what you see (so long as it's not dangerous and/or a violation of someone's consent, of course!), keep your opinions to yourself. You're going to see people who are angry; you're going to see people who have opinions you may not understand, let alone agree with. Engage with those differences of opinion later, with a queer friend, if they're willing. At Pride, let queer people express themselves as they want.
6. Shield Your Queer Friends
Chances are you may see some anti-LGBTQ protesters on the parade route. If you're comfortable doing so, shielding your queer friends from these protesters can be a hugely beneficial use of your privilege as an ally. If protesters are shouting slurs, engage your queer friends in conversation as you pass the protesters. If they're getting violent, help guide your queer friends out of there. Stay safe yourself, but if you can use your privilege, do.
7. Don't Assume Other People's Identities
See also: go in judgment-free. No matter how people present themselves at Pride, it's important not to make assumptions. There's no better place than Pride to start asking for the pronouns of the people you meet, and to go neutral with the pronouns of people you don't. If you love someone's hat and want to tell a friend, say, "Wow, I love their hat!" It'll come pretty naturally after a minute.
8. Be Mindful Of The Words You Use
As a good general rule, it's helpful to follow the lead of the folks you're at Pride with when sussing out what behavior is appropriate, and what's not. For example: I'm personally OK with allies using "queer," as a word that's been reclaimed from its past use as a slur, but plenty of other queer people are not. Stick to "LGBTQ people" and you'll be A-OK.
9. Remember We Still Need Support When June Is Over
Generally, Pride is fun. Pride Month is fun. But when June is over, remember that we still need you to show up. There's no better way to show you're an ally than to keep advocating for us throughout the year. And all of these tips can also be applied at other times. Wear a pronoun pin to a work conference, or put your pronouns in your email signature. Don't assume other people's genders. And offer to shield us by donating your time, talents, and money to queer organizations that need support.
Going into Pride as an ally can be intimidating, but if you're worried about etiquette, chances are you're going to be just fine. Keep the above tips in mind, and give your queer friends the space to boost their voices. Happy Pride!