Pride season in America is upon us! June is Pride Month, but Pride celebrations are happening all summer. Boston’s Pride parade and festival are back after a hiatus, New York boasts a star-studded extravaganza of events, DC’s Capital Pride and Baltimore’s festival were my very first Pride experiences as a queerling, I have it on excellent authority that Maine’s Pride Portland! is a banger, and obviously San Francisco has a Pride celebration. When you look at how much queer celebration there is, you can almost forget we’re living through a high season of anti-trans, anti-queer, and anti-drag legislation (what can I say, it’s so fun to be a reliable punching bag for Republicans when their policies are unpopular).
Let’s say you’re a cis/het ally who wants to celebrate with your queer and trans pals at your local Pride celebration; great, can’t wait to see you there! Before you go, I want to give you some tips and advice on how to be in a queer space. You’re not going to a typical celebration and if you want to be the best ally and friend to your queer loved ones, it’s best to get your head right first. In no particular order, here are some tips for being an ally at Pride.
De-center Yourself. There’s a classic example of this in the hetero bachelorette party held at a gay club. It carries the message that queer spaces are sites for safari and queer life is for gawking at. I come from a place of love when I say, “Pride’s not about you.” Thank you so much for coming to celebrate with us, but you are a guest at this party and the narrative being celebrated is one you do not lead. We’ve all been sponges in the same bigoted dysfunction of American culture and internalized the idea that white straight people (particularly men) are the natural default character in life and also the natural lead of every story to be told. Just remind yourself that Pride is one story that does not center the cis-het experience. Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” is not the vibe here. We’re not exotic animals, we’re people not allowed to live as freely as yourselves and you’ve found us in a space and time where we can open up.
Don’t Judge. You’re going to see some things at Pride that may be surprising. There might be nudity, there might be displays of kink, and there might be representatives of gender and sexual identities you’ve never heard of before. Don’t inhibit any of it, whether speaking your judgments aloud or laughing at it. Inflicting that kind of shame on others is shitty in general, but especially so at Pride where people are meant to be free and open as they please. We are not here to perform for you. Don’t bring to Pride the same deviance-minded policing that America treats queer people with every single day. Here’s a handy list of terms including sexual and gender identities with explanations. It’s a frontier of new ideas and new words. It’s exciting and you can be a part of it too.
Understanding Is Overrated. Don’t get me wrong: as a broad concept, we need more understanding in the world. When I say that understanding is overrated, I mean that it’s commonly used as a barrier to acceptance. You don’t need to understand a queer person to accept them. You don’t need to know “why” anyone is anything. Not one person owes you a detailed accounting of their sexuality and gender before you “approve” of them. You don’t need to understand a transgender person or a demisexual person or an asexual person to accept them as they are. Accept them because they’re a fellow human just like you.
Choose Events Wisely. Are you bringing children with you to a Pride event? Wonderful! Do some light research about which events in your area are for all ages and which are for 18+ or 21+. While Pride has gained more public support over the years, it’s not sanitized for the general public. Some events are a great time for the whole family and others are for adults only.
Reject Rainbow-Washing. You’ll almost certainly see it at any celebration: corporate sponsorship. Suddenly, Burger King is doing bullshit like this. This is rainbow-washing, the entirely cosmetic “support” corporations offer that virtually never results in anything more meaningful than market-share. A handy rule of thumb: if the corp didn’t actually push any money or resources toward queer people, it’s just rainbow-washing.
Be Woke. Catch the mind virus! State your pronouns and ask about the pronouns of others. Give a trans organization some time or money. Take your kids to Drag Queen Story Hour. Despite the precious inches the queer cause has advanced in America, we’re already experiencing a backlash to the tune of 490 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in all but four states. Pride isn’t just a party if our ability to be queer in public life is under this much assault.
Renew Your Support. Allies are defined by action, so reflect on what yours have been. It’s one thing to silently hold the truth of our equity in your heart and another to put that truth into your words and deeds. Have you made the space around you safe for queer people in your life? Do you shut down phobic talk when you hear it in hetero/cis spaces? Do you stand up for queer people when you see them compromised? Do you listen to the queer people in your life and value their perspective? Do you hold space for bigots? Maybe there’s a transphobic comedian you follow or you love a homophobic boxer. If you want to call yourself an ally, do the work. I promise you, it’s worth it to make your allyship active, and not just something you believe.
Chris Revelle shrieks into the media void with his pals on Why Did We Watch This?