Have a True-to-Its-Roots Pride
To this cisgender queer author and baby of the mid-1990s, Jane Fleishman's recollections of the first Pride marches are unimaginable.
"In '81, there were people with paper bags over their heads," the author and activist said. "And I was in the first Pride march in Hartford, Connecticut, a few years later. People were scared to come out."
That protestors felt simultaneously compelled to stand for their own sexual liberation as well as terrified to be punished for it is, thankfully, not the world I was raised in. It's a logical byproduct that with increased visibility and acceptance comes a watering down of the message—after all, a few decades is a long time—but it's not inevitable.
As evidenced by the aforementioned bravery of queer activists in the early 1980s, and before, how we celebrate Pride season can dictate the atmosphere of our society, now and in the future. Whether it's energizing the rest of your year with the goals and passion of the season or integrating allyship into your daily life, this celebration requires introspection and intention to maintain its authenticity.
Fly the flag
Fleishman starts with an activity that could be seen as a superficial method to celebrate a true Pride season. Decor speaks volumes, and what you adorn your office or home with informs visitors as to who you are. Consider a Pride flag pinned to a corkboard or perhaps a couple of portraits of your favorite queer artists feel more appropriate, because even for allies, these are simple gestures you can make to let others know they're safe.
"Say you're in private practice and someone comes into your office and they're unsure if you're really queer-friendly or not. [Now] you've got some stuff on your wall that lets them know," Fleishman said. "The therapist might not be a queer person, but the therapist can show that client, I got you. I know who you are. Even if it's just a little flag."
Speaking of gestures, normalizing pronoun checks in social circles is essential to valuing nonbinary people. "Normalizing" in this case means offering your own pronouns without imposing the same on others. This approach is less performative than a group-wide pronoun check. If others feel encouraged to participate and also offer up their pronouns, wonderful. If you're the only one to do so, that's nothing to feel embarrassed about.
Sometimes there may be pushback from cisgender people who feel this is overkill or silly, but they are not who the pronoun check is for. Pronoun checks are meant for people who have been historically denied those basic courtesies, and to encourage safety and feelings of being understood.
If you believe a pronoun check feels frivolous, this might be because you've lived a life that takes those considerations for granted. In that case, take a pronoun check as a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the privileges you have while considering how others have often felt disenfranchised.
If you are in that lucky class of people who are in a position to defend others, Fleishman advises allies and straight-passing queer folk to "stand beside those you wish to protect, not in front."
"When the oppression isn't hitting you smack in the face and you feel comfortable standing up and saying something, stand shoulder to shoulder with the person you're with," Fleishman said. "Don't stand in front of them. Don't try to take over for them, don't try to fight their fight for them, but say, 'I'm here for you. How can I help? What can I do?'"
How can you really help?
Reexamining our role in Pride is a reexamination of our place in the world. When a person enters a situation with a set idea of how to help someone—but doesn't consult with the victim of the problem—feelings get hurt on all sides. Ignorance begets arrogance, but genuine curiosity is based in humility. Even if you're sure of how you want to help, ask those who are hurting what they want.
Pride season can only fall short of its potential if we forget community. This is where the idea of intersectional politics comes in—or the real-world application of theories on power. Oppression doesn't occur in a vacuum, just like race and sexuality don't exist on separate planes but rather as overlapping components. Fleishman attributes success in LGBTQIA+ movements to allowing the guiding force to be "taking this with our Black and brown sisters to a much bigger level. We're gonna be part of a bigger movement."
This big-picture notion of Pride centers on discussions of power and the dynamics of power, not a single group or even a single community composed of many groups.
A whole season to consider what we're capable of while fostering that same potential in others is certainly a reason to celebrate. Pride Month may be over for this year, but the joy of Pride lasts all year, so buy a pair of rainbow socks this summer if that's what you're in the mood for. And in the words of Jane Fleishman, "Remember to work on expanding your definition of 'us' beyond your previous comfort zones."