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2019 Pride attendees stand in front of the Center on Colfax. Photo by Evan Semon
Culture

How to Responsibly Celebrate Pride As an Ally

It’s important for allies to show out to Pride, but it’s equally important to show out in the right way.

LGBTQ community members are not the only ones preparing for this weekend’s Denver Pride. Queer allies, too, are excited to show their support for the community by attending the virtual march and in-person festivities at “Pride Hubs” sprinkled throughout the city. Queer advocacy leaders welcome the presence of allies who play a role in advancing Pride’s goals.

“One of the primary reasons [to have Pride] is just, simply, visibility, and I think allies are definitely a part of that,” says Rex Fuller, CEO of the Center on Colfax which organizes Denver Pride. “Seeing both other LGBT folks and their friends and families gives people a greater sense of security.” Nevertheless, Pride is still an event held by and for queer people, so allies should ensure that their participation is respectful and responsible. For those wanting to learn more about how to achieve this, we’ve got you covered.

(Read more: Celebrating Denver Pride: Community, Resilience, and Change)

Understand Pride’s History

Pride began as a protest. Many allies are aware of the 1969 Stonewall riots, which are often credited as sparking the modern LGBTQ rights movement. But the history extends much further than that. Nadine Bridges, executive director of One Colorado, acknowledges the 1966 Compton Cafeteria riot in San Francisco as a lesser-known but equally important moment in queer history. “Those were Black and Brown folks, transgender folks, who, with bricks and stones and fire, came out to say, ‘This is who we are,’” says Bridges. Understanding this history is crucial to appreciating the fight for modern-day queer rights. It informs how Pride still evolves, too. Case in point: The Compton’s Cafeteria riot, like those at Stonewall, were in response to police harassment and abuse, and Denver LGBTQ leaders point to such violence as a reason why Denver Pride has chosen to remove the presence of law enforcement this year.

Be Aware of the Space You Occupy

Spaces designated for queer people are still a precious resource. So awareness is key. Help ensure you don’t take up too much space within them if you do not belong to the identities they’re designed for. Bridges notes that this does not only apply to cisgender, heterosexual allies at queer events. She says: “If you are a white person in a Black and Brown event, just remember that there’s not many spaces for us.” How does one maintain this respect? According to Bridges, it’s about fully allowing the people of that space to be themselves and not being too forward in your own behavior.

Respect the Identity of Others

Queer advocacy leaders like Levi Teachey, president of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Denver, reminds allies to use proper pronouns and gender-neutral language at Pride. If you make a mistake, the proper way to respond is to quickly correct yourself and move on. Respecting queer identities also entails recognizing that the community is not a monolith. Certain intersectional identities need more uplifting and attention. Rex Fuller points out that queer community members who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), or have disabilities, are frequently dismissed, as well as those that identify as bisexual. Furthermore, Bridges notes that the intergenerational nature of the LGBTQ community should be celebrated, saying that both queer youth and older adults need to be kept at the table.

Maintain the Work Year-Round

The tenet of respecting identities applies beyond Pride. Teachey invites allies to employ these tactics—including introducing one’s own pronouns—to other settings as a way to normalize them. Other methods to maintain effective allyship include advocating for LGBTQ-supporting legislation by voting and contacting legislators. Lastly, take advantage of resources like PFLAG, which offer support groups and other programming for allies close to queer community members.

Spend Your Money Wisely

Simon Paul, Denver drag king and board member of We Are Family Colorado, says that financial support is one of the best ways to directly impact queer community members. Many queer performers can receive tips over Venmo or Cash App, but if you are able to do so, it’s smart to keep enough cash on you to tip each performer a few dollar bills. Furthermore, Simon mentions that not all Pride-related merchandise is created equal. “Don’t just go for the free stuff from corporations,” he says, advising allies to stick to queer-owned stores and restaurants.

Ask for Consent

If you’re at a drag performance, enthusiasm is absolutely welcome; performers like Paul want audience members to stay engaged and cheer them on. He says, though, that sexualizing or otherwise demeaning remarks are distracting and unwanted. Moreover, Paul stresses that you should never touch a performer without their consent. “You can’t just touch someone because they’re wearing a cool outfit,” he says. Teachey agrees that consent is necessary for all situations. He emphasizes not outing others’ identities, whether in face-to-face conversation or online. “Don’t just snap a bunch of pictures and throw them up on social media,” says Teachey. You never know which attendees are not out or exist in unsafe spaces outside of Pride, so best to err on the side of caution.

Manage Your Expectations

Pride will host a wide range of queer expression, so you may run into things that you’re not entirely comfortable with. “Don’t stare, don’t gawk,” Teachey says, specifically in regards to kink at Pride events. “It’s not your job to police things as an ally.” If you are planning on bringing your kids to Pride (and you should!), ask organizers about family-friendly sections of the parade and other events made for all ages. Even still, prepare to have conversations with your child about what Pride means and why it’s important to embrace different celebrations of it.

Be Safe

If you are attending in-person Pride events this year, follow established safety protocols, including being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before you arrive. Safety also comes in the form of hydration and sunscreen, since you may stand under the sun for multiple hours on end. Teachey advises to take breaks needed, and maybe leave your pets at home. Ultimately, as Fuller says, by taking care of ourselves, we can go full out next year with an even bigger celebration.

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