How To Support LGBTQ Pride Without Being Performative
Who doesn’t want to celebrate Pride? The parades, the parties, the infectious excitement—it’s pretty much a guaranteed good time.
For straight and/or cisgender people who aren’t directly part of the LGBTQ community, showing up for Pride can be a fun way to show support. But as you get ready to pull on some rainbow-colored clothing, dab glitter onto your cheeks, and head to one of the hundreds of celebrations that take place throughout the country, be aware that Pride is more than just a celebration. The struggles that LGBTQ folks face are real, difficult, and oftentimes dangerous—making authentic support very necessary.
And while it might feel like a good deed to show solidarity during Pride Month, you’ll want to make sure you’re not just being performative—in other words, that your allyship is genuine, helpful, and effective, and you’re not doing it just to make yourself look good, feel good, or to enjoy a fun party.
So: how can you make sure you’re authentically supporting Pride this year and beyond?
You probably know that Pride is all about gaining widespread social acceptance and political support for equality regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
But did you know that Pride wasn’t invented by cisgender white men, despite this often being the community’s most visible demographic?
Like so many other movements (ahem, feminism), the LGBTQ movement was not spearheaded exclusively by white people. Trans women of color, such as Marsha P. Johnson, and Black lesbians like Stormé DeLarverie were among the central movers and shakers—which is unsurprising given that BIPOC LGBTQ folks experienced disproportionate discrimination, something that unfortunately continues to this day.
Gaining an understanding of the history of the movement, along with the contemporary issues, is a good first step in taking your support for Pride to the next level. Read about the ways that LGBTQ struggles are shaped by other social positionings, such as race and socioeconomic mobility. Learn why pronouns are important. Brush up on your lingo.
Attending Pride events armed with all this good knowledge will give you a deeper appreciation of what is being celebrated and what still needs to be fought for. But it goes even deeper than that. By becoming conversant, you are helping to lift the educational burden off of LGBTQ folks who implicitly understand these issues based on lived experience—and because of this, they are often called upon to explain the issues to others. And if you’ve ever had a challenging conversation with that proverbial stubborn uncle at the holiday dinner table, you’ll know how draining this can be.
As an educated Pride supporter, you’ll be well-equipped to spread the word and help broaden people’s understanding of why the LBGTQ movement is good for everyone.
Recognize your privilege
Learning about LGBTQ issues is one thing, but recognizing the role that you inadvertently play is a whole other ball of vegan wax—since this is where things get personal.
Confronting the ways you benefit from social structures that oppress others can be challenging, requiring a healthy dose of care, concern, and empathy. If you try putting yourself in the shoes of those in the LGBTQ community, you might be surprised to learn just how different your life would be.
Take public displays of affection (PDA), for example. In a straight, cisgender relationship, you probably don’t think twice about holding hands with your partner while strolling down the street, or giving them a quick peck on the cheek. But LGBTQ folks need to be way more cautious before sharing affection in public since this can increase the chances of facing aggression and violence. And you might be surprised how many people get killed just for existing as trans or gender non-conforming.
Or consider your workplace. Cisgender women can certainly experience workplace discrimination, making it more difficult to break through glass ceilings and get equal pay. But imagine needing to hide your gender, and to risk not being hired or even being fired, should anyone discover that you were a woman. These are realities faced by one in 10 LTGBQ people, predominantly those who are Black and brown, who are forced to “cover” their identities to assimilate into workplace culture.
Recognizing the relative ease with which you move through the world, and the everyday difficulties experienced by others, will make oppressive structures more visible to you—which better equips you to work to dismantle these very structures so that everyone can enjoy the same freedoms, as they ought to.
Put in the effort
Being an authentic supporter of the Pride movement takes time and effort. Even seemingly simple things like searching for the perfect rainbow tee to wear to an event, or finding a flag to hang from your balcony throughout the month (and make sure you understand which flag you are flying, because there are a whole lotta versions!) can wind up being problematic if you don’t do sufficient research.
Some corporations have a nasty habit of coopting LBGTQ messaging and creating Pride apparel to scoop up major profits—all without giving back to the cause or working to move the needle in the right direction. Sound familiar? That’s right—businesses can be performative, too!
Be on the lookout for Pride merch that clearly states proceeds will be donated to advocacy efforts, or that uses advertising campaigns that put legit LGBTQ organizations front-and-center.
Being an authentic Pride supporter also means recognizing that this isn’t a seasonal gig. There are many ways you can make your allyship known throughout the year. Include your pronouns in your email signature. Slap a rainbow sticker onto your laptop. Patronize LGBTQ-friendly businesses and recommend your friends do the same. Donate to and volunteer for organizations that are working to improve the lives of LGTBQ people. Make your support known on social media by sharing content produced by LGBTQ folks.
Along with these things, be willing to openly engage with people on the issues and provide education where necessary. For example, if you hear someone at work using the wrong pronouns for a colleague, think about gently correcting them and helping them understand how and why they should be using the correct pronouns. Have that difficult conversation the next time the holidays roll around and your uncle says something harmful. And acknowledge that you will make mistakes along the way—we’re all human, after all! Be willing to listen and learn.
Finally, don’t stop at LGBTQ support. Especially given how intertwined this movement is with others, such as those dealing with racism, poverty, ableism, and sexism, it can be an easy leap to become an effective ally for other marginalized groups, too.
In this imperfect society, it is our responsibility to live as ethically as we can. We should do our part to recognize where we stand and actively work to make the world a more just place. Pride helps us do this, and also to revel in the significant victories achieved over the years.
Now go forth and celebrate! Happy Pride!
Laura Bridgeman (she/they) is an award-winning writer and the Editorial Manager at Kinder Beauty.
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