Pride is not all parades and rainbows for some members of the LGBTQ+ community. Although the month of June is meant to be a celebration that gives people a space to express themselves and feel affirmed by their communities, some people may not feel like they have the same luxury, because of where they are physically, or where they are in their own journey. For those who aren't fully out, or live in conservative areas where LGBTQ+ communities aren't represented, for example, Pride can actually feel more like a safety concern.
Raymond Braun executive producer and host of the documentary, State of Pride, which chronicles different Prides around the country, says he grew up as the "proverbial lone gay in the village" in a small town in the Midwest. He recalls seeing images of Pride on TV for the first time as a kid, and feeling in awe. "It gave me that first window of hope into what my future could look like, and what expressive, amazing, beautiful, diverse community was out there," he says.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to celebrate and express themselves in a safe way during Pride and beyond. In a sense, this is a mental health issue. According to the American Psychiatric Association, LGBTQ+ individuals may experience less social support than those who identify as heterosexual, especially if they live in a region without a large LGBTQ+ population or if they've experienced rejection by their family. Pride is one small way to foster a sense of belonging and social support, which is a key determinant of health.
Braun's message to anyone who feels excluded from Pride is to remember that you're not alone. "The one thing we do know to be true is there are LGBTQ+ people everywhere — from the smallest towns to the biggest cities," Braun says. "In theory, there should be a Pride or celebration everywhere." Here are some unique ways to celebrate Pride, even if you're in a place where you can't:
Thanks to hashtags, live streams, and location tags, there are more ways to feel like you're at Pride without physically being there. "There's such a breadth of Pride content online that I would encourage you to explore," he says. So, whether you're watching your favourite queer vloggers videos, streaming old episodes of The L Word, or just scrolling through the #Stonewall50 tag, you can dive into the Pride celebrations around the world without physically going anywhere.
Connect with a local LGBTQ+ organisation.
Most states and local communities have LGBTQ+ advocacy organisations that host events and celebrations, Braun says. If you're not sure where to find that information, a lot of the national organisations, such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign, have local ambassadors and chapters across the country.
Host an event.
A lot of people think Pride is all about the parade, because it's the most visible element. But if the idea of a parade with crowds of people is overwhelming to you, consider attending or hosting a more intimate gathering, Braun says. For example, you could go to a queer panel discussion, have a film screening, check out a music or theatre showcase, or even hang out at a networking event. Or, if nothing seems like your vibe, then you could always host your own. "Even if it's a couple of picnic tables and a rainbow flag, that's still a great start," he says.
Tell your story.
If you're interested and have the resources to do so, Pride can be a wonderful time to share your own story, through whatever medium you feel comfortable. "It shouldn’t be your responsibility to have to advocate for yourself, but that's a great way to put your voice out there," Braun says. "Put yourself out there, and it will attract people in your community who are looking to connect. Developing those connections creates a wave of acceptance."
Make a safety plan.
If you are planning to attend a public Pride celebration, there are key safety steps you can take to keep yourself — and other Pride-goers — protected from anti-LGBTQ+ violence. For example, the New York City Anti-Violence Project says it's wise to go to any event with a buddy, and fill people in on your plans so they know where you'll be. Have a backup charger or battery pack, as well as a list of emergency phone numbers in case your phone dies. When you're out, clock the 24-hour businesses nearby that you could go to if you feel unsafe. And finally, trust your gut, speak up if you witness harassment or violence, and get away from the situation if you can.
If you are an LGBTQ person and you would like some more information on your rights or any of the issues raised in this article, check out Stonewall’s website.