06/06/2018 02:38 pm ET Updated Jun 11, 2018

How To Be A Good Straight Ally To LGBTQ Friends During Pride

"Be respectful and avoid treating Pride as a ‘spectacle of the gays.’”
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There’s nothing wrong with partaking in Pride festivities as a straight, cisgender person. But there’s a huge difference between genuinely celebrating the LGBTQ community and treating Pride events like a trip to Disneyland or just another chance to dress up. 

Below, members of and advocates for the LGBTQ community share their best tips for being a good ally during Pride month while still having a fantastic time.

1. Recognize that it’s not about you.

While you might never tweet, “Why isn’t there a straight pride month?” even well-meaning straight people can come off the wrong way at Pride events. It’s important to tread lightly when stepping into a space that isn’t yours, said Gianna Collier-Pitts, a writer and former campus ambassador for GLAAD.

“Although we appreciate your support and welcome you to celebrate with us ― we really do! ― Pride parades were created by and for the LGBTQ community as a safe space to be our authentic selves, whatever that may be,” she said. “We carry our flags proudly and dress how we want and show affection to our partners as an act of empowerment and rebellion in an otherwise heteronormative society.”

In short, Collier-Pitts said, “Be respectful and avoid treating Pride as a ‘spectacle of the gays.’”

2. Understand the cultural origins of Pride.

Before you attend Pride festivities, make sure you have a clear understanding of the cultural significance and history of these events.

Why is Pride month in June, for instance? It started with a riot. In the early morning of June 28, 1969, police raided a popular gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Stonewall was (and still is) located in a heavily gay neighborhood, and although police claimed they were raiding the bar for serving alcohol without a liquor license, law enforcement of the era was notorious for targeting spaces frequented by the LGBTQ community.

When police hauled away employees and patrons, the Stonewall crowd and neighborhood residents grew incensed. Resistance turned into a riot, followed by days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement. Today, the Stonewall uprising is heralded as the beginning of the mainstream LGBTQ rights movement.

In essence, Pride was born out of a need to survive and protect, not a need to party, said Meg Cale, a travel writer and LGBTQ rights activist.

“Pride is equal parts protest, celebration and family reunion,” Cale told HuffPost. “It’s way more than a parade. In fact, many LGBTQ people think of the parades as an afterthought. Pride was started because we needed a means to break free from our people being criminalized, pathologized and persecuted. And while we’ve made gains over the years, we still have work to do.”

3. Don’t confuse trans people with drag performers.

Lessons for the Cisgender 101: Recognize and respect the distinction between transgender individuals and drag queens. Broadly speaking, it’s the difference between identity and art.

“From one cisgender person to another, it’s really not that hard to understand: RuPaul is a drag queen, and Laverne Cox is a transgender woman,” Collier-Pitts said.

4. Remember that Pride is about more than just gay people.

Pride is a celebration for people across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, said Jean-Marie Navetta, director of learning and inclusion at PFLAG National, an organization that unites families and allies in support of LGBTQ youth.

Be aware of all the groups attending, especially those underrepresented within the LGBTQ spectrum: Members of the bi community deal with bisexual erasure issues every day and pansexuals are oftentimes rendered invisible or misunderstood. When singer Janelle Monae recently came out as pansexual, the word became Merriam-Webster’s most searched term that day.

“It’s so important to remember that there are lots of people celebrating who may not be as visible as others, like pansexual people and asexual people,” Navetta said. “Don’t assume anything about who is ― and isn’t ― around you based just on your perceptions. Look for some of the symbols that can tell you about who is there — the trans pride flag and the bi pride flag.”

5. Use your voice of privilege to amplify the voices of others.

Continue to be an active supporter after Pride month ends. As a straight, cisgender person, don’t engage in merely performative allyship. A perfect example of that? Posting a supportive quote card on social media when a political issue is trending, but not getting involved in community efforts or voting for candidates who openly fight for queer and transgender rights.

Most importantly, use the privilege you have to provide a platform for those who have been silenced or unheard, said Leah Juliett, executive director and founder of the National LGBTQ Youth Town Hall.

“This could mean hosting an event where the proceeds benefit an LGBTQ organization or giving space for LGBTQ-identified students to talk about their experiences in class and affirming those experiences without trying to take from them,” they explained. “Don’t step on marginalized voices or attempt to tell stories that do not belong to you.”

6. While you’re celebrating, don’t forget there’s still more to fight for.

While amazing strides have been made for LGBTQ rights over the last few decades ― marriage equality among them ― there’s much more to do. Forty percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, for instance, and 20 percent of transgender people report having been refused health care. Transgender people, especially trans women of color, face starkly disproportionate violence in comparison even to the rest of the LGBTQ community.

“If you’re a homeless queer young person, marriage equality matters very little when you don’t have a bed to sleep in that night,” Cale said. “So while you’re enjoying the festivities of Pride, take a second to honor how far we’ve come and another second to respect and contribute to the work we still have to do.”

#TheFutureIsQueer is HuffPost’s monthlong celebration of queerness, not just as an identity but as action in the world. Find all of our Pride Month coverage here.

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