It’s that time of year again. Happy Pride week, folks.
All around the country, cities are breaking out their rainbow flags and preparing to honor the LGBTQIAA community with their brightly colored parade floats and police sanctioned partying. Here in San Francisco, home of The Castro, we host the largest pride festival in the country. People from all over the world come to take part in the celebration. But, rarely do they ask: Should I?
Pride is not about the partying. It’s not about the floats. No, it’s not even about the rainbow flags. It is about the people. Pride is a celebration of queer folk: of non-binary people, of transgender people, bisexual people, proud lesbian and gay people. Pride is about the struggle. It’s about recognizing that though lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are over 4x more likely to commit suicide and transgender youth 9x more likely, we are still here.
Attending Pride, as a straight person, means the day is not about you. If you are there, your job is to be an ally; to uplift queer voices rather than speak over them. As an ally, your task is to do much more than wear bedazzled bras and “be gay for the day”. In fact, as an ally, your job is to not do that. (I’m talking to you, straight girls posting your kissing pictures with other straight girls!) As an ally, your job is to not exploit already vulnerable communities under the guise of support (I’m talking to you, straight boys asking girls to make out for their pleasure!)
I write this with complete awareness of the fact that I cannot possibly tell anyone what they can and cannot do. However, I do hope to shed some light on the reality that is the hijacking of pride. I have had far too many conversations with broken hearted queer youth who tell me that Pride does not celebrate them, that they have been left behind and turned off by the hypocrisy of it all. I have watched the same girls who whispered snarkily about my girlfriend and I post pictures grabbing their best friends butts and marveled at how much they were truly not helping. The same people who made us feel like outsiders have come into our spaces and kicked us out! I cannot dictate to anyone what they can and cannot do.
But, if you’re straight and planning to celebrate Pride festivities this weekend ask yourself these questions:
Why do you want to go? Is it for the party or your friends who are also attending? Is it because you’ll be able to wear your rainbow booty shorts with no sense of societal shame? Is it to gawk at the “crazy” or pick up on chicks?
How have you treated queer people in your life? Have you ostracized them? Questioned the validity of their sexuality? Labeled them as confused or in a phase? Have you criticized them for being “too out there”? Do you use their sexuality as a way to turn you on?
How do you act when there’s nobody holding you accountable for your actions or words?
Do you call people faggots? Do you use gay as an insult? Do you make jokes at the expense of queer identities? Do you respect people’s pronouns?
Does your acceptance only apply for certain identities within the LGBTQIAA community? How did you react to Caitlyn Jenner? Are you an ally to the transgender community? Do you invalidate bisexuality? Do you recognize non binary people?
Does your acceptance only go so far as to include white queer people? How have you treated those who are at the intersections of queer and brown? Queer and black? Queer and muslim? Queer and immigrants? Queer and disabled? Queer and low income?
Are you truly in support of the queer community?