Pride month happens every June. It’s a time to celebrate love, expression, diversity, acceptance, and resilience. Pride month’s origin began just as a day to celebrate and recognize the adversity those who identified as gay overcame. Since then, so many others have joined in celebration of their sexual and gender differences- as you can see by the always increasing number of letters in the “LGBTQ+” abbreviation. The Cambridge Dictionary online provides one definition of pride which seems fitting, “your feelings of your own worth and respect for yourself” (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/pride ). What is very important to remember during this month is that you don’t have to identify as a gender or sexual minority to help celebrate the month! Just as a person who is not of African decent doesn’t need to be of African decent to help celebrate and respect Black history month! Pride is for those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, those who don’t identify, those who support (also known as an Ally), and those who have no idea what Pride is but want to be a kind and accepting person. Pride is for everyone.
Okay, So I Am a Bit Nervous
It can be intimidating and cause anxiety thinking about going out and celebrating Pride if you haven’t done it before. Weather we like it or not, most of us live our lives with a hetero- cis- normative mindset. That’s a mouthful but I will explain.
Heteronormative basically means that when we interact with others, we automatically assume they are heterosexual (“straight”). We might be shocked to find out that our neighbors are lesbians, or our co-worker is A-sexual and A-romantic- meaning he might not want to engage in a relationship ever. We assume when we pay for groceries that the person taking our money has a significant other at home which falls in alignment with being straight. Got the first part?
Bear with me, this will only take a few more moments to explain the language! Cis-normative means that when we interact with others, we automatically assume they are the gender that societal norms have established. This means that long hair and makeup means the individual you are speaking with is female. The buzzed hair and flat chested individual in basketball shorts is male. As humans, we like predictability because it’s comfortable. When we have experiences which can’t be boxed or predicted- such as the individual wearing makeup, basketball shorts, and buzzed hair who is not flat chested, we must reorganize our thought processes.
Combining the two terms means that we assume individuals will fall into patterns of behavior that will categorize them as both straight and male/female. Now we are getting to the important part, you’re nervous. You can’t predict what others are going to request you to call them. What they will say or how they will behave? This can be unsettling or it can be an opportunity for growth. It’s okay to be nervous. What’s important is that you come to your experience with an open mind. That you engage with another person as a person who wants to be accepted. If you’re nervous, you can reflect on what makes the interaction difficult for you. You can talk with other friends- although I would be cautious about discussing it with LGBTQ+ community as you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. At the same time, they might be happy you are asking questions respectfully and trying to understand. Take some deep breaths and enjoy people for being their authentic selves. Celebrating Pride can be a great experience with diversity which can lead to further acceptance and self-awareness.
What About the Lil’ Ones?
One reservation you may have is weather or not to also introduce your child(ren) to the LGBTQ+ community or a large festival such as Pride. As any celebration, there are things at Pride festivals which are probably not kid friendly to everyone, however, many things are. Be sure to check out what is available for kids and families by searching online. At Columbia’s Pride Festival last year, there was face painting, free gifts, popsicles, and bracelets! Some quick investigating to know what is available can not only put your mind at ease for your children, but also for yourself if you are experiencing some nervousness. You may be okay with expanding your understanding of the world around you, but hesitant to share it with your little ones for various reasons. One may be the fear that it will cause your child to adopt a certain sexual or gender orientation. As a parent myself, and a clinician, I would like to share that there’s no research supporting this notion!
In fact, showing your child there are many different types of expressions of love and gender can benefit your child. You will model acceptance of various identities. Moreover, you may start a dialogue with your child so that if they do develop a non-hetero- non- cis- identity, they will be assured of your love and acceptance of them. It also will hopefully provide a space for them to be an accepting person! There are many studies which suggest the power of exposure of diversity on openness and sexual orientation or gender identity are just other forms of diversity.
If your child expresses interest in being apart of the LGBTQ+ community, checking out my prior blog on “The Parent’s Process”, could be a good place to start! We are always open to answering any questions and sharing support for any state of the process.
“It Seems Over the Top”
One thing which I have heard from people who are exploring thoughts about their biases and feelings towards the LGBTQ+ community is that they feel like it can be a bit in-your-face. In other words, these individual don’t mind that there are LGBTQ+ people out there, but it makes them uncomfortable to have it so clearly defined during Pride festivals.
Rainbows, glitter, eccentric outfits can be a lot for some- but that is just one of many ways that some of the LGBTQ+ population dress. Attending a Pride fest, you will notice there are many “ordinary” dressed people. People who are there to celebrate and support the community just as you’re inquiring about. If you are thinking that it’s a bit over the top, this is where it may take a bit of reflection on your part. Pride is about celebrating. It’s about recognizing the hard times that people of the LGBTQ+ community have had and their perseverance to have happiness in their lives. Other holidays have what could be considered eccentric attire too (think dressing up for Halloween, fire works and patriotic paint for Fourth of July, Ugly Sweater parties for Christmas). When it’s time to celebrate other things, most people don’t bat a lash. Why? We can only speculate, but probably because some of these have been around longer and are more culturally accepted (not that everyone celebrates all of the above mentioned either).
If you’re uncomfortable with the vibrant celebrations, I challenge you to think about why this is so. I would ask you to reflect on whether it has to do with your assumptions of hetero- cis- normativity or does it have to do with the flashy-ness of it all? If it has to do with the former, I suggest you use the reflection questions in my other blog How to Celebrate Pride Month to better understand your thoughts and feelings. If you’re not the type of person who likes to go to big parties and wear colorful clothes, maybe you can find a different outlet for support. This is where you can look into becoming an ally.
Being An Ally
An ally is an individual who supports the LGBTQ+ community but fall into the heterosexual, cis-gender community. In other words, Ally’s are accepting and supportive but don’t identify as a gender or sexual minority. Being an Ally means that you stand up for LGBTQ+ equal rights. You accept and support these individuals to live their lives in a manner that feels most authentic to them. As an ally, you identify yourself as a person who is safe and caring about diversity. If you’re curious on how to show love and support, checking out Machaela’s blog here on stigma, hatred, and violence might be a quick spot to check out. Becoming an ally can look like signing up for a group such as a local Gay-Straight-Alliance (GSA) or the Human Rights campaign. It can also be showing your support by wearing something rainbow, telling your friends and family you support the LGBTQ+ community, or putting a sticker on something you use in public often (i.e., car, laptop case, ect.). You are also an ally when you help defend equal treatment for those who are in the LBGTQ+ community weather that be at the local level (like schools), state level (like statues), or federal level (like federal laws). What being an Ally boils down to is support.
Show Support & Acceptance. Pride Is For You, Too!
Pride is not just for those who identify as LGBTQ+, it’s for everyone. Those who don’t identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community can reap the benefits of social justice, self- reflection, embracing diversity, and supporting a population with many at- risk situations (such as homelessness, discrimination, and suicide). You might feel nervous about joining in celebrating Pride month, but the benefits are numerous. Besides just having a good time, you can enjoy a month which will challenge your typical mind set.
It’s okay to feel nervous and talk about it. One way that you can support the LGBTQ+ community and celebrate Pride is to become an Ally. This distinguishes you from the community in such a way that they know you care for their well-being and fair treatment.
This year during Pride month, I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone a little. I challenge you to enjoy yourself amongst others who might be different than you. I challenge you to reflect and be kind. I challenge you to become an ally. My hope is that you come out with more acceptance and understanding.