How to be a good LGBTQ+ ally at Pride
If you are straight and planning on attending a Pride event this June, remember that you are entering an LGBTQ+ space as a guest. Being a good guest means being respectful of your hosts and their space. While Pride is open to everyone, and straight solidarity is important, keep in mind that this event is for folks who do not have the privilege of being comfortable in all of the spaces that you do.
Here’s how to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ folks in your community during Pride and beyond:
Understand the cultural origins of Pride
Before you attend Pride festivities, actually do some research to understand its history. Pride marches began as a way to commemorate the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969, which were started by Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman. Knowing Pride’s roots of resistance and protest means better understanding today’s struggles within the LGTBQ+ community.
Yes, there are a lot of amazing outfits and makeup and floats to look at during Pride. But there is a difference between appreciating and gawking. Don’t treat Pride or the folks there like a spectacle or a zoo. If you think someone looks great, instead of pointing and staring, just compliment them directly! If you want to take a picture of someone, you have to ask for their consent. Be conscious of your social media use at Pride events — don’t use folks for your Insta if you’re not actually engaging with them.
Don’t assume anyone’s identity or sexuality
You are invited to Pride, but your assumptions and judgment are not. Here’s the thing about gender and sexuality: it’s not always obvious. And even if it seems like it is, you still have to ask. Also, not everyone who attends Pride presents as their preferred gender identity or sexuality. Use respectful language when addressing or talking about other people. For example, know the difference between a trans person and a drag performer. Avoid gendered language such as “ladies” or “you guys” when addressing groups — these terms can be triggering for some people. Instead, try using “folks,” “friends,” “y’all,” or any other gender-neutral term. If you don't know how to refer to someone, use their name or gender neutral pronouns like “they,” or ask politely, “What pronoun do you use?”
Pay attention to the space you take up
Again, straight people are invited to Pride, but Pride is not for straight people. So don’t hijack the space. You have every other day of the year to go out and party with people like you, but some folks only have this one space during this one time. If you arrive at an event that is closed or has little space, LGBTQ+ folks have the first priority.
Wear your support
A lot of companies offer rainbow apparel during Pride, but many of these are just examples of corporate pinkwashing, i.e. profiting off of queerness without actually supporting queer people. Instead, buy your Pride merch from queer brands, or queer-friendly companies that donate proceeds from products to causes that support the LGBTQ+ community.
Take on the labor of dealing with hate
If you see any harassment at Pride, use your straight privilege to call that shit out so that LGBTQ+ folks don’t have to. Pride is supposed to be a safe and inclusive space, and the folks affected by bigotry shouldn't also be the ones responsible for responding to it. If you do not feel safe approaching hecklers or harassers directly, at least check on folks who may be impacted.
Don’t don’t don’t call the cops
Pride literally started as a protest against discriminatory policing, and tensions with the police have continued ever since. LGBTQ+ folks have been protesting the inclusion of police in pride marches, with some recent success in cities like Toronto and Edmonton. LGBTQ+ folks and especially people of color are disproportionately targeted by police violence and are more likely to be arrested for nonviolent incidents. If you feel unsafe or see another person in an unsafe situation, Pride events often have information booths, medics, and security personnel on site that you can go to instead.
Put your money where your mouth is
If you’re straight, you shouldn’t spend money on partying with LGBTQ+ folks without using some of that cash to support them. That means donating to an organization working in the LGBTQ+ community, such as the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Immigration Equality, and The Trevor Project.
Be an ally all year long
Being an LGBTQ+ ally doesn't mean just wearing rainbow glitter one day a year; it means consistently learning about and supporting issues in the community. You can apply these Pride guidelines to everyday life: be respectful of LGBTQ+ folks and their space, educate yourself and others, and donate your time and money to their causes.