So you want to come to Pride and join the party? Awesome. But you’ve never been to Pride before, and you’re not sure how best to take part? We’ve got you covered, from what’s happening where and when, to the history of Pride, to how best to support LGBTQ+ causes, not just at a parade but the whole year round.
This guide is aimed at people who’ve either never been to Pride before, or who don’t know the history of the event – whether they’re LGBTQ+ people looking to make friends, or straight people who want to join in as allies. If you’re already familiar with Pride, you’ll know most of this already, but if you’ve got anything to add for newbies reading this, please do put it in the comments!
What is Pride all about?
Pride is a reaction to regressive laws and attitudes which see LGBTQ+ people denied their basic rights, silenced and shunned by society. For younger folks, who don’t remember a time when being gay was illegal, it might be a shock to realise that 2017 marks just 50 years since the UK Parliament voted to legalise homosexuality – as recently as the 1960s you could be arrested for being gay.
And though attitudes are changing, with more countries voting to legalise gay marriage, there are still many areas – both legal and social – in which LGBTQ+ people are discriminated against. Pride is an important reminder of both how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.
Writing for HuffPo, Joseph Amodeo explained that marching at Pride is about remembering this history:
“I march to remind myself to cherish the freedom that the struggles that took place before me made possible. I march to commemorate those who gave their lives along the way. I march, because so many have given so much that the very least I can do is put my feet to pavement to ensure that their sacrifice for the liberation of others is never forgotten.”
The history of Pride
On 28th June 1969, there was a riot following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York that was a hub for trans, gay, lesbian and gender non-conforming people. At the time, New York’s laws made it illegal for LGBTQ+ people to openly express themselves and there had been an increase in the number of raids on bars like Stonewall. When the police raided the bar that night, members of the community started fighting back. It took hours for the police to clear the crowd, and the days afterwards saw many more large demonstrations around the Stonewall Inn, as more people took to the streets.
In the wake of the Stonewall riots, a number of LGBTQ+ activist and campaigning organisations were formed, to build on the momentum and start demanding a change in laws and attitudes. Exactly one year later, to mark the anniversary of the riots, the very first Pride march was held in New York City.
Read more about the beginnings of Pride, and the pioneering activists who fought for change in the 1960s and 70s.
If you’re planning on coming to a Pride event in the UK, it’s important to understand the history. Pride is much more than just a party or a parade: it’s about the long fight for justice and recognition for LGBTQ+ people. Every year at Pride there are debates around the tone of the event – how commercial it has become, or how many straight people are there just to have fun at a party, without really giving their support to the important, year-round fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
Writing in the Guardian, Justin Myers (aka The Guyliner) explains that:
“Pride is supposed to be our message to the world, a mission statement. #LoveIsLove, as an attempt to both unify and promote us, feels overly simplistic or conciliatory, like we’re trying to talk ourselves down from the gallows, or get a disagreeable toddler to eat up all their sprouts. It is intent on letting straight and/or cis people know we mean them no harm. Yet we receive no assurances from them in return and our history is marked with scars of their making.”
Pride London and around the UK
The theme for this year’s Pride London is ‘Love Happens Here’ – highlighting so many love stories that began in and around where the march will take place. If you look on the Pride website you can view the interactive map, where people have placed pins and sent in stories about those they met and fell in love with in the area.
There will be plenty of events across the city, though the parade and performances on Saturday 8th July are usually seen as the ‘main’ event. Groups from different LGBTQ+ organisations will march along the main parade route, and there’ll be performances on various stages throughout the city centre. The following day, Sunday 9th June, UK Black Pride hosts Pride in the Park – a community-style event with baking competitions, sports, dog shows and spoken word performances.
And it’s not just in London: Pride is happening all across the UK, from York to Weston Super-Mare. Pink UK has a list of all the places you can get involved.
Tips for LGBTQ+ Pride newbies
If you’re a newbie to Pride – especially if you’re a younger LGBTQ+ person – it might seem daunting to launch yourself into events with big crowds. Planning is key – check out the route and what’s on, and give yourself lots of time to wander around and find your favourite spot. In London, the crowds tend to be heaviest around Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square where the main stage is.
There are plenty of advice guides on Pride that’ll tell you it’s a great time to meet people, and that’s true: the atmosphere during Pride marches tends to be very upbeat, and it can be a great opportunity to make new friends. But if you’d like to find someone to go along with, websites like MeetUp can help you to find groups near you, many of whom will be arranging group outings to Pride or looking for buddies of their own.
If you’d like to get more involved you could always volunteer for a Pride event. Stewarding or taking part in set-up can be a great way to meet new people, and you may find out about other events that are happening in your area when Pride is over.
But everyone’s first Pride experience is going to be different, as demonstrated by this brilliant collection of stories from LGBTQ+ people on how their first Pride went down.
How to take part in Pride as a straight ally
We could just tell you to turn up and have fun, and that’s kind of the easiest way to take part in Pride: find your nearest Pride event, arrive, support LGBTQ+ people, cheer the floats in your local parade – job done. But there’s a lot more you can do than simply turning up during Pride itself. And many would say it’s cheeky to turn up for the fun bit and then switch off for the rest of the year. So while we encourage everyone to come to Pride and enjoy the event, the atmosphere and the entertainment, we’d like to suggest that straight people shouldn’t just be passive consumers of the fruits of LGBTQ+ activism. Get involved!
Join the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in your country. Because we guarantee there will be one. It is only very recently that countries like the US and the UK legalised same sex marriage, and there are many countries where it is still illegal. Trans people are still denied basic rights in the UK and the US as well as in other countries – some states in the US are trying to pass laws that would deny trans people the right to use the bathroom, and in the UK, gender-recognition panels sit in judgment over trans people, denying them their right to self-determination.
Support charities that fight for LGBTQ+ rights. You’ll meet some of these organisations at Pride, and they do great work all year round. Here are just a few examples that you might want to donate to or volunteer with:
Stonewall – campaigning for rights and empowering individuals to make change.
Opening Doors – which works to support older LGBTQ+ people.
Albert Kennedy Trust – supporting younger LGBTQ+ people in crisis.
Press for Change – legal organisation providing support for trans people in the UK.
Support your LGBTQ+ friends, colleagues and family. PFlag has an excellent and detailed resource on what it means to be a good straight ally. This is a contribution you can make all year round: stand up against discrimination where and when you see it. Challenge derogatory remarks and homophobic/transphobic jokes, and offer your support to those who are on the receiving end.
As The Guyliner explains so well in his piece:
“Forget tolerance or acceptance: they’re outdated concepts that suggest we’ve something to be sorry for. Being ourselves is our right.”