“Do you think it’s okay for me to attend Pride?” a good friend of mine asked last year. This friend is straight as an arrow and cisgender. She also was a fabulous support system for me when I was coming out to my family and is always working to be not only an ally to LGBTQ people but also an accomplice. (While “allyship” seems to be a word void of action, one people simply use to verbally show their support, an accomplice is someone who follows their beliefs with action.) Now, she’s one of many non-LGBTQ people who are wondering whether Pride is a space for them. It’s a valid question and one that doesn’t have a straightforward answer (pun intended).
Pride was incited by the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969, when the New York City queer and trans community got fed up with violent police harassment and discrimination. The following year, on the same date, the Pride march began to honor the events of the past year. This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and everyone who has paved the way for us to be out and proud.
While Pride has grown to be a more celebratory space for the LGBTQ community, there have been calls to action in recent years to revitalize the revolutionary spirit that sparked it. Groups like No Justice No Pride and Gays Against Guns have opened up much-needed dialogue on corporate sponsors infiltrating Pride.
Meanwhile, the recent political climate has not been one of safety for the LGBTQ community, reminding us of the sacredness of Pride. The current administration has penned legislation that would make it legal for healthcare providers to refuse care to transgender people simply because of their gender identity. Since the Pulse nightclub shooting, there has been a palpable fear interwoven into our community. We need spaces where we can fully be ourselves without fear of violence or discrimination, and introducing straight people into them can complicate this.
Nonetheless, I believe that if you are straight, cisgender, and questioning whether Pride is the right place to show your support for the queer and trans people in your life, the answer is yes, as long as you’re there to be an accomplice. In these vital times, our community needs not only support but also straight and cis people who are willing to show up for our safety. Here are some ways to do it this Pride season.
Remember this isn’t about you.
Pride wasn’t created with straight and cis people in mind. In fact, it was created because we needed a space to resist the violence created by cis and straight people in power. You are a guest in this space. It’s never appropriate to gawk at LGBTQ people for our liberated forms of expression, and this is especially true during Pride. You’ll likely see leatherdykes, gay boys in jock straps, drag kings and queens dressed to the nines, and queer PDA. Pride isn’t a spectacle for your entertainment, so also be mindful of the photos you take, and ask for consent before snapping away. It shows respect for the space and people’s privacy in case they aren’t out to family or coworkers.
Know when to take a seat.
Not every Pride event will be appropriate for you to attend. The Dyke March? Not created for you to march in. A QTPOC-only Pride picnic? Not a space for allies or accomplices. The femme-centered dance party? Also not for you. However, we’d love to see you at the Pride street festival where you can support queer vendors, the conferences on LGBTQ human rights, LGBTQ film screenings, or the Pride march itself. Knowing when to take a seat and not take up space is a huge component of being an accomplice. No matter how fun the event sounds, remember that these are spaces created for our safety and to collectivize with those with shared experiences.
Don’t show up for the party — be there for the protest.
If you only want to show up for the glitter and fun outfits, I’d ask you to reconsider. I get it, us gays throw fabulous parties and know how to cultivate a space for freedom of expression. You might be excited by that and want to join in. But if you aren’t also going to a rally for trans day of action, attending screenings of LGBTQ documentaries, and learning about our vast history, then please don’t attend the parties. Being an accomplice means being there for the not-so-fun stuff, too.
Honor the history of Pride.
Our legacy is one filled with hot rage, fierce resistance, and deep love. Honor that by remembering that Pride wasn’t created as a party, even though it may seem like one now. Engage in dialogue with your straight, cis family members, coworkers, or friends, and educate them about the history of Pride and why their action is needed to support the safety of LGBTQ people. Bring up recent legislation, and speak to how they can use their privilege to create change.
Be mindful of your language.
Respect people’s pronouns, always. If you don’t know them, just ask. You will also likely hear LGBTQ people using reclaimed terms like “faggot,” “dyke,” and “queer.” But just because we are using these terms in non-pejorative ways doesn’t mean you should. Even if not intended, it can be read as an act of discrimination.
Put your money where your mouth is.
If you take one action this Pride month, let it be making a donation toward an LGBTQ-led organization. Some suggestions are Trans Women of Color Collection, Trans Justice Funding Project, Third Wave Fund, and The Griffin-Gracy Educational Retreat & Historical Center. Be sure to do your research before deciding where to give.
You can also ensure that the dollars you spend to purchase Pride products support queer- and trans-owned small businesses’. Don’t go to corporations or name-brand stores. Instead, shop at independently run queer Etsy shops or online stores. We are magical creators and offer far more unique products for you to show support with. Plus, your dollars will be going directly into the hands of an LGBTQ person living their best life.