Lessons Learned from Attending Pride Events
Note: Because of COVID-19, Pride events and parades will not go on as typically scheduled in 2020, but the lessons described contributor Victoria Blisse offer value and meaning as Pride events go virtual during the current pandemic.
Pride parades are an important part of the LGBTQ+ community with so many opportunities for fun and learning new things. I’ve experienced a handful of Pride parades. I attended some when I thought I was straight, and others after I knew I was queer. I always had an amazing time but learned some different lessons depending on how I identified at the time.
Manchester (UK) Pride in 2015 was my first ever. I went with my child who was 13 at the time and quite enthusiastically Pansexual and my great friend Reverend David Gray. We joined in with a group called Christians Walking with Pride made up of many people of all ages and all sexualities. That first year was a real and overwhelming but wonderful assault on my senses. I felt at home in a way I’m not sure I’ve felt in many straight, crowded spaces.
How to Be a Good Ally at Pride Events
I thought I was straight at the time and went to support my child. From that perspective, this is what I learned from my first Pride parade about being a good ally to LGBTQ+ individuals.
Don’t Take Over Queer Spaces
This might seem ridiculously obvious but Pride is created for LGBTQ+ folks. If you’re going, don’t rain on their parade. Be respectful and don’t treat it as just another holiday where you get to dress up.
Don’t Assume, Ask
People don’t want to be misgendered or pestered during a celebration especially for them. If you’re not sure what pronouns to use for someone, ask them. Even better, when you introduce yourself tell them your pronouns so they feel at ease to tell you theirs. It’s fine to have questions and if you’re not sure about why something happens or what something means then ask. But check your privilege and don’t pry.
Straight folks have a whole world of privilege, use some of it to shield, protect, and protest for your queer friends. If you hear casual homophobia or transphobia in your day to day, express being uncomfortable with it. Explain why if you can. Sign petitions, attend protests. Don’t shop at places that are outwardly homophobic. Everyone can do their bit no matter what their level of comfort is. Every little bit helps.
Attending Pride Events as a Queer Person
In 2019 I went to my very first Leeds (UK) Pride with my then enboifriend. It was the first I attended where I knew I was queer, the label I chose for myself that I feel most comfortable with. I walked with the Leeds Bi Group, carrying a huge Bisexual flag, and I definitely felt a very different connection to the experience.
I was in a strange town, with only two people I knew really well yet I felt at home. I had a stranger give me a fan because I looked like I needed it, a million random compliments on my outfit, and when I sat in a crowded bar afterward with a group of my enboifriend’s friends I felt completely at home even though I barely knew them. It really helped me accept my own queerness by being accepted by the queer community.
The origins of LGBTQ+ pride celebrations are rooted in violence and rebellion. In a time of regular police raids of bars frequented by LGBTQ+ individuals the patrons of the Stonewall Inn of New York City on June 28, 1969, fought back. At Leeds Pride, a bunch of people yelled abuse from the side of the parade route. I didn’t hear them as groups of supportive queers were cheering ‘No Hate at Pride’ to drown out their vitriol. Pride is a celebration but it’s also a fight for rights that should be awarded to every human regardless of their sexuality.
I can very easily camouflage in day to day life. No one is going to know I’m queer unless I announce it in some way. Others work really hard to blend in. However, at Pride, everyone is free to be exactly who they are and be seen for that. The number of half-naked people showing off top surgery scars was amazing. There were folks wrapped in pride flags of all kinds, wearing T-shirts that celebrated Trans rights and Queer identities, and we were celebrated for our uniqueness.
Pride means different things to different people but even so, it brings together a huge community under a banner of love, pride and joy as a way to push back against to intolerance and prejudice everywhere.
It’s important for everyone to be seen for what they are, I think it’s important for us to battle for a world where this is something that happens naturally without anyone having to hide essential parts of themselves out of fear. Pride is needed currently but wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where it didn’t need to exist?