Every summer, cities around the world fill with rainbows for Pride month. Pride flags are unfurled, sometimes spanning entire blocks, and costumed paraders take to the streets in support of the LGBTQ+ community. In cities like San Francisco and New York City, Pride has become a can’t-miss event for both those who identify as LGBTQ+ and those who identify as allies.
For straight and cisgender attendees, however, it’s important to remember that Pride is more than just a party. Keep these six things in mind to ensure that lending your support and enjoying the festivities doesn’t translate to exploiting the LGBTQ+ community.
1. The first Pride was a police riot
Pride occurs each summer to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that happened in New York City in 1969.
At the time, most states had laws in place banning LGBTQ+ people from assembling in groups. The mob opened bars where people could gather in order to profit off the discrimination of our community. The venues were the only “safe” spaces for LGBTQ+ people but they were frequently raided by the police. Tired of harassment, patrons of The Stonewall protested, which turned into several days of riots. At its peak, over 1,000 people took to the streets of Greenwich Village in one of the first organized modern LGBTQ+ protests.
So, although you’ll see sequins, rainbows, parade floats, and pool parties sponsored by liquor brands and banks, understand that Pride is equal parts celebration, protest, and community-building.
Because our bodies and our identities are still policed by the government, religious groups, and even the people we love, we reserve Pride as the opportunity to express ourselves authentically. Sometimes that’s by drunkenly singing Robyn songs at the top of our lungs, and sometimes it’s by crying during the eulogy for our murdered trans sisters.
2. A lesbian bar during Pride is not the place to look for your unicorn
As a femme-presenting queer woman, I’ve been hit on by cisgender men and straight couples in queer settings more times than I can count. Some queer women are attracted to men, some aren’t. We go to LGBTQ+ spaces to be around other LGBTQ+ people and celebrate our identity. Sure, there may be people who are interested in your advances, but there will also be people who will take offense. Pride should first and foremost be a safe space for LGBTQ+ people. Keep this in mind and don’t treat Pride like a venue for arranging a ménage à trois.
3. Don’t take pictures of us without permission
You’re going to see folks in leather, drag performers, transgender people, non-binary people, nakedness, gender-bending getups, and some wild outfits. We’re not here to be a spectacle to you. We’re here to celebrate with folks who are like us. Don’t post photos of us on social media to be edgy or to show your superior open-mindedness. We don’t exist for your amusement.
4. If your thought process is “Gays are okay, but I don’t get the whole trans thing”
Don’t come to Pride.
5. Pride is not the appropriate venue for your girl’s night or your bachelorette party
Lots of straight women have told me they love going to gay bars because they can dance and celebrate without the presence of come-ons from men. I’ve seen drunken sorority girls climb on stage and attempt to make the show about them. I’ve seen women get a bit too intoxicated and attempt to make out with or grope gay men. LGBTQ+ spaces should, by definition, be safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people. If you attend Pride as a straight ally, remember what, and who, the event is about and lend your support appropriately.
6. You’re a guest in our space. Act accordingly.
The important takeaway here is not that LGBTQ+ people hate straight or cis folks. It’s not even about straight and cis folks at Pride. It’s about when straight and cis folks behave in inappropriate and culturally insensitive ways that threaten or dampen the experiences of LGBTQ+ people at events that are made for us. Straight and cis folks can go to any party and feel comfortable dancing, holding hands, and making out with their significant other, or even a stranger, without feeling like they could be in danger because of their identity. LGBTQ+ folx do not always have that luxury.