Pride events are the pinnacle of LGBTQ+ celebration. Filled with love, rainbows, tiny shorts and Drag Queens, they are a special space for the LGBTQ+ community to congregate together and celebrate both how far we have come and a reminder for how far we have yet to go. The role of straight allies is a very important one. Straight allies help spread the message of love, understanding, and acceptance to everyone, giving our community’s mission a wider reach than we would have alone.
It is important to consider what kind of ally you are to the LGBTQ+ community. Are you a passive ally, or an active one?
Pride is a celebration, but it is a celebration specifically for the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. It is important for straight people attending to be aware and respectful of that.
Pride means a number of things to the LGBTQ+ community. It often is one of the only times we are able to congregate in a public space to feel what it is like to be the majority. It is beyond thrilling and empowering to feel so connected and represented! While we celebrate, we also march to end workplace discrimination, equal access to healthcare, serve openly in the military, and show support for the protection and rights of transwomen of color. Ultimately, these events all have the same mission, which is for everyone that is not a member of the LGBTQ+ community to become an active ally.
The LGBTQ+ community has experienced generations worth of discrimination, injustice, and violence. When we march at pride parades, we are remembering the shootings at The Pulse nightclub. We remember the Trump Administration’s attempts to take away trans rights and LGBTQ+ discrimination rights regarding healthcare. We remember the attacks on transgender people, in particular trans women of color.
How To Be An Active Ally 365 Days A Year
A great way to show support and active allyship outside of attending pride events is by donating to LGBTQ+ organizations. Donating is a great way to exercise active allyship because you are literally putting your money where your mouth is. Another great option is seeking out volunteer opportunities in your local community. Grab a few pals and plan a day to volunteer together. You will have fun and feel more a part of your community because of it. Small local LGBTQ+ organizations need volunteer efforts all year round, not just during pride month! You can also physically display your allyship with the Ally Flag.
Why This Is Important
It can be easy to see why a straight person might question the impact of their presence at a pride parade. Every year, it seems like more and more corporations are bombarding queer spaces with psuedo-ally campaigns deeply rooted in marketing and capitalism. More and more non-LGBTQ+ people are attending pride events every year, but not always for the right reasons. There are plenty of people who show up to drink in public, cause a nuisance, or people watch and jeer.
Pride parades and other events are not built and put on for straight people. The straight experience is not the center of the event, instead putting all of the focus on the LGBTQ+ community. This does not mean that straight allies should not go or are not welcome. If that were the case, that would mean that a mother of a child who recently came out would not be able to attend the event with them. Straight allies are more than welcome to join us in celebrating the LGBT+ community.
Straight Allyship Should Be Genuine
As a straight ally at a pride event, you will need to strike the balance of showing support and simultaneously holding awareness that this event is not for you. Be respectful of those around you and cognizant of what the queer community is fighting for. Your allyship should be intersectional, meaning it recognizes how a person’s socio-political identities combine to create different experiences of discrimination and privilege. By educating yourself on the history of pride, you are consciously coming into that space as an aware ally.
Before you go to a pride event, take a moment to consider why you want to go. Is it to show love and support for the LGBT+ people in your life and community? Is it because it looks like something fun to post on Instagram? For too many people, their top reason for going to pride is to use LGBT people for personal entertainment. If that sounds like you or people you know, best to make another plan for the day.
Part of being a good active straight ally is owning the humility that these events are not for you. That does not mean you are not sincerely welcomed, but it is important to know that this is a special and meaningful event for many deeply personal reasons. It is not a good time to ask people their political opinions or for an educational lesson on their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. You are there to celebrate and support!
As a straight ally, part of your job is to give space for marginalized groups both physically and conversationally. Sometimes the best allyship is...not going to the party. While straight allies are welcome at pride parades and events, perhaps it would be best to skip any after parties that are specific for a smaller sect group of people. For example, if there is an after party specifically for bears and you yourself are not a bear, then that night is not for you. It is always a good idea to kindly deter any heterosexual bachelorette parties from crashing gay bar after parties as well, as they are taking up a queer space by centering their straightness.
Conversationally giving space means being an active listener when speaking with someone who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Make sure to not reframe the conversation to be about you and your experiences, but about theirs. When you meet someone new, ask for someone’s pronouns to not assume gender identity based on gender expression. If you have any questions about the LGBTQ+ community, research the answers before you head out the door.
Understand The History Of Pride
Pride is both a celebration and a remembrance of strife and struggle, a duality that should be acknowledged by straight people. We remember the heroic activism of trans woman of color Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who kicked off the entire gay rights movement at the Stonewall Riots. One year later, activists gathered together outside the Stonewall Inn and marched in remembrance of the events that passed, and to show unity and determination as a collective unit moving forward.
Ask Before You Snap A Picture, Or Leave Your Camera At Home
While pride events are certainly always a visual spectacle to behold, you might want to take a moment to pause and consider before you begin snapping away. Even though everyone you see might be dressed to impress, that does not necessarily mean they want to be photographed. Their attendance might make them vulnerable to harm and are attending the event in secret.
Pride events are supposed to be safe places for members of the LGBTQ+ community to join together and be themselves.
Not everyone has an accepting workplace or home situation, and might not feel comfortable having a stranger take their photograph. Always ask the subject of your photo for their consent before you click away. By doing this, you are demonstrating consent and consideration as an ally. Most people will be more than happy to strike a pose, but asking before shows a baseline of respect that they deserve. Or, simply leave your camera at home for the day and just join in the fun!
Final Words of Wisdom
Stay mindful of the language you use, as words carry a strong impact. When you meet someone new, introduce yourself with your pronouns to normalize sharing that information in a lowkey way. Also, do not forget to enjoy yourself! Pride events are special and magical for a reason.