Five things allies should know about LGBTQ+ Pride
LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, plus so much more!) Pride celebrations are a tribute to the past, a way to honor the warriors who paved the way for a better world, a jubilant celebration of sexual and gender diversity, and an unapologetic display of self-love that offers hope to those who cannot yet live and love authentically. Once a year, at Pride—for those lucky enough to live in a city like Rochester where it’s celebrated—LGBTQ+ individuals get to see people like themselves being out and proud and celebrating their existence. Cheers to that! Below are five common questions and answers about Pride that every ally should know.
Why is LGBTQ+ Pride important?
LGBTQ+ Pride is first and foremost a commemoration of the Stonewall riots. These riots began in response to a routine police raid at the Stonewall Inn, an LGBTQ+ bar in New York City. In 1969, it was illegal to solicit “homosexual relations,” and LGBTQ+ clubs and bars were subjected to regular police harassment and patron arrests. But on June 28, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back. Transgender folks, lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, people of color, and allies created a unified front against the police. The rioting and protests lasted for five days and are considered by many to be the catalyst that launched the gay liberation movement. For this reason, June is LGBTQ+ Pride month.
FUN FACT: Although June is Pride month in the U.S., here in 585-land, LGBTQ+ Pride is celebrated in July. Reliable sources tell me this is because Rochester didn’t want to compete with New York City, Toronto, Buffalo, and Syracuse Prides, which all take place in June.
Why is there no straight Pride?
Quite simply put, there’s no straight Pride because there’s no need for it. There’s also no need for cisgender (i.e., not transgender) Pride. Straight/cisgender Pride, in a way, happens every day. Straight/cisgender people see themselves represented as accomplished, pride-worthy people constantly. It’s obvious to all that straight/cisgender people have invented cool stuff, created awesome art, built tall buildings, and won Pulitzer Prizes. An LGBTQ+ child working their way through the average K–12 school system might get the impression that no LGBTQ+ person has ever done anything of consequence or contributed to our society. Although this is starting to change, LGBTQ+ people in general do not see themselves represented frequently and in a positive way in school curricula, mainstream media, films, news, or books. There’s no able-bodied Pride, White History Month, or ribbons for people without cancer for the same reason.
Are allies welcome at Pride events?
Yes! Allies are most definitely welcome to attend, enjoy, and volunteer at the big community Pride events like the parade and the festival. Allies should, however, be aware that some smaller events may be meant only for certain community members. Members of any marginalized community know that sometimes getting together in your [fill in the blank]-only space can be empowering, rejuvenating, and typically less exhausting than being in spaces where not everyone “gets it.” Therefore, allies need to respect spaces where they are being asked not to attend. Typically, these are smaller events that will specifically say that they are for LGBTQ+ community members only. If you’re not sure whether or not an event is open to allies, it’s best to connect with the event coordinator and ask.
Are there LGBTQ+ cultural faux pas that I should avoid at Pride?
There are indeed. Here are a few of the most common LGBTQ+ etiquette bloopers to avoid.
1. Using gendered language. Avoid using words like ladies, dudes, and sir, even if someone’s gender seems obvious. You can really ruin someone’s Pride experience by misgendering them. Instead, use words like friends, folks, and (if you can pull it off) y’all. Use singular they if you’re not sure of someone’s pronoun. For example: “Yes. They gave me their ticket already.”
2. Referring to the gay lifestyle. Living with eight cats is a lifestyle. Being gay isn’t. There’s no gay lifestyle, just as there’s no straight lifestyle. It’s just who someone is.
3. Using the word transgender incorrectly. The word transgender, and the shortened version trans, are adjectives. Therefore, saying “a transgender” and “the transgenders” is incorrect. “A transgender person” and “transgender folks” are correct.
4. Attempting to label people. Humans categorize in order to make sense of the world, but I strongly recommend that you don’t attempt to categorize people at Pride (or anywhere for that matter). When I’m at Pride I see people in all kinds of fabulous outfits and I have absolutely no idea who is bisexual, trans, straight, asexual, gay, cisgender—and, I’m sorry to say, you probably don’t either. At Pride, of all places, give people the space to just be fabulous without attempting to figure out their identities. When you’re heading out the door to a Pride event, leave your “gaydar” at home. Better yet, chuck it out. It’s a useless item.
You’ve just realized that you’re guilty of having made one or several of these faux pas. You should (check all that apply):
A. Give up. You’re obviously a terrible person and a hopeless ally.
B. Forgive yourself. We didn’t learn this stuff in high school.
C. Put in the work to get it right the next time.
Answer: B and C
You’re not a terrible person. Everyone makes mistakes. Being an ally is an ongoing journey of messing up, learning, and growing. So, make an appropriate apology when possible. Forgive yourself. And work on getting it right the next time. Check out Savvy Ally Action’s three-minute YouTube video “What to Do When You Mess Up” for tips on how to make an appropriate apology and strategies for getting it right the next time.
What can I do during Pride month to show my support for the LGBTQ+ communities?
Organize an LGBTQ+ workshop or lunch and learn event at your workplace. Show your support with ally buttons and pride flags. Organize a fundraiser for an LGBTQ+ organization like the Trevor Project or the Trans Lifeline. Ask if you can create a Pride display at your workplace. Unfurl your most fabulous rainbow outfit and celebrate diversity!
HELPFUL HINT: Want to acknowledge people at Pride events but aren’t sure what to say? The appropriate greeting is “Happy Pride!”
Jeannie Gainsburg is a 585-er and an award-winning LGBTQ+ educator, consultant, and author. If you’re seeking more ally tips and information on how to create LGBTQ+ inclusive spaces, please check out her book, The Savvy Ally: A Guide for Becoming a Skilled LGBTQ+ Advocate, available on Amazon and through the Monroe County Library System. To schedule a workshop or to access free educational goodies, go to savvyallyaction.com.