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Pride Etiquette

Last Updated: Jun 13, 2022 / By A. Moon Johnson

With the streets transformed so that all of Dorothy's friends can follow the rainbow brick road to the land of snogs, it could come as a shock to those less invested that Pride started as a protest and that the parade is actually a march. Even community members get swept up in the celebration of being who they've been told they couldn't or shouldn't be, often losing the origin story in the process. So here we are with the yearly notification that our sisters Marsha and Sylvia fought the powers that were so that we could just be.

What is Pride about?

Pride is about a lot of things; being who we are without shame, without violence, and without having to hide who or what we find beautiful. It's about remembering the struggles of yesteryear and yesterday. Pride is about paving the way for the youth seeking the courage to express their truth. It's about remembering our family who has fallen to state violence, depression, addiction, and disease.

Through the rainbows, glitter, and jiggly bits a-hanging, Pride impacts the hearts of millions and spreads joy, dance, laughter, tears, and hugs. And every year, someone messes up. There is no shortage of people who forget who they are within the context of the occasion and as a result, there can be no shortage of reminders of the rules of Pride etiquette.

Pride Expectations

Each year, a major street in a major city will be blocked off so that thousands of LGBTQIA+ people can celebrate who they are. This includes the humans who identify as all, some, or no gender. Mixed in are bears, otters, twinks, dykes, studs, femmes, stems, and other identities that make Pride one of the most interesting and exciting festivals anywhere you celebrate. There's always a motorcade with music and dancing in tow, more rainbows than anyone could ever imagine, and flags to represent every intersection of the community. Bearded drag queens, motorcycle crews with lashes and nails, all lady fire departments, and tweens in tiaras represent our beautiful culture as they pass by the hordes of onlookers shouting, clapping, and screaming in encouragement. This is the infamous Pride Parade that everyone comes to be a part of and it's where various organizations can make themselves known, pass out contact information, and interact with the community. At the parade, there's a little bit of everything going on, and it's all in good fun.

Pride isn't only about the parade. From outreach programs to nightlife and sporting events, fashion shows to vendor markets with food, crafts, and fine art exhibitions, there is a never-ending list of things to see and do, with wonderful people to meet along the way.

Who Shouldn't Attend Pride

There is a space at Pride for nearly everyone, but not everyone belongs at Pride. Those who attend just to sneer, jeer, or protest the community, or if they represent organizations, legal systems, or beliefs that don't support the community are simply not welcome.

Pride is where we celebrate the fight for equality. Anyone who doesn't agree with the notion of equality has no place at Pride and you will be removed.

Beyond these people, everyone else is welcome, but with boundaries.

Who Should Attend Pride

Allies

There's often the question regarding allies at Pride. We love our true allies. Our parents, siblings, and cousins are so important to us and our fight. Our friends make up the chosen family many of us lost when we came out, so there's never any question about whether we welcome allies. With that in mind, remember that being an ally is a supporting role and you're there to uplift and amplify the voices of the marginalized. The focus should not be on you in general, but this is especially true during Pride.

A really helpful way to attend Pride as an ally is to help man the booths or pass out flyers for your favorite organizations. The main organizer always needs extra sets of hands to guide foot traffic or organize swag. If you prefer a less physical way to engage, offer to help handle phone calls or answer emails while the staff is at the events. There's no shortage of the different ways you can help. Just ask.

Kids

Every single adult gay was a child gay. That's just how it works. In the interest of being the representation we wish we could have had, kids are generally fine as Pride attendees. After all, many families have same-sex parents, or parents in non-straight relationships and their children are just as much a part of the LGBTQIA+ community as their parents.

However, there has to be accountability on the part of the caretakers. There will be things happening that may not be kid-friendly and it's up to you to determine whether your child has the maturity and cognitive ability to grasp what's going on and why. This doesn't mean toddlers stay home, but it does mean you will have the conversation about why the man was wearing a dress, or why those two women were kissing. It does not mean that you get to tell the man in the dress to wear something else, or that the women should stop kissing in front of your child.

How. can you get your kids involved? Many cities have a youth alliance that puts on performances or has art shows featuring youth work. Check out their booth or website to see about any interactive events.

Straights

Pride is for the LGBTQIA+ community and their adjacent. While we welcome your support, we also have justifiable reasons for our skepticism. Why are you supporting now? Will it continue after the weekend or after Pride Month? Why are you really here? Every year there are plenty of straight people that jaunt down to Pride to gawk and laugh at what they have chosen to misunderstand. That's unnecessary and intolerable. As long as you attend for the right reasons and can maintain respect for the people and the event, you are welcome. Treat Pride as if you were invited to your parent's boss' home: come in respectfully, remember your manners, and don't touch anything (especially the drag queens' breastplates, they hate that).

How can you help the spirit of love? Buy as much merchandise as you can. Alternatively, talk to some of the non-profit organizations to find out which ones you would feel most comfortable making a monthly donation to.

LGBTQIAP+

Family, we have to have a small chat. Pride is for us, about us, and there is so much love and appreciation there, it makes us all very giddy. I mean, have you seen the BUBBLES? It's because of that love that we need to have an in-house conversation about exclusive spaces at Pride. Within our already marginalized community are further marginalized intersectional communities. These are groups that face societal backlash on their own, but when coupled with their LGBTQIAP+ identity, it creates a crossover experience and identity that makes it difficult for them to find solidarity anywhere except at yearly Pride events.

An example of this would be the stud community. According to Kriss Chesson at Autostraddle, a stud AKA stud lesbian is a masculine-presenting Black lesbian. Not all masculine-presenting Black lesbians are studs but there is no such thing as a non-Black stud. This identity was created out of the intersectional need for community among masculine Black lesbians that were intentionally excluded from the white community at large, and the white lesbian community, specifically. If there is an event for studs, anyone who is not a masculine Black lesbian should respect that space and stay out of it unless explicitly invited.

Similarly, trans spaces are specifically for people who are living a trans experience. Your Thursday nights in drag and having a trans bestie aren't the same as being trans. Respect the space and be their support afterward.

Also, remember that there's no such thing as "looking gay". While the need to gatekeep our spaces is totally understandable, you can't look at someone and determine their identity. A man and a woman in a relationship doesn't make them straight. One could be gender non-conforming or bisexual. Additionally, you can't look at a face and know what bits a person carries, how they feel about them, or what they do with them (or not) so treat everyone with love and respect.

This article on Pride Etiquette is written by A. Moon Johnson, a Sexual Culture and Wellness Writer focusing on LGBTQIA+ Communities.

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