This week I went to New York to visit my aunt and uncle. We had done most of the tourist activities like walking around the Met or visiting the Statue of Liberty when my aunt asked if I wanted to go to the New York Pride Parade. My initial reaction was very hesitant, because although I'd love to attend, I wasn't sure if I should.
I'd love to celebrate LGBTQ people, as well as honor the sacrifices people made to make strides for civil rights within that community, but I just didn't know if, as an ally, it was my place to attend Pride. The last thing I wanted to do was insert myself somewhere and thereby detract from someone else's experience. It seems silly, but I had seen rants on Instagram or Reddit that blasted straight people for flippantly attending Pride, because while Pride is an amazingly colorful and beautiful celebration, it is not an aesthetic for people to use for their Instagram posts or an event for easy performative activism.
My aunt explained to me that in New York, Pride was truly a celebration for everyone, and I had no reason to be nervous. Thankfully, I took her advice and went. Here's my experience.
I've lived in the St. Louis suburbs my entire life, so to say I was a little out of my element in New York is a huge understatement. New York city, Manhattan specifically, is massive, and your attention is constantly diverted to something new. It's always easy to be slightly overwhelmed in New York, and that was magnified by 100 during Pride.
I felt like my eyes couldn't take things in fast enough; people's outfits, people's signs, and people's voices, they were all so diverse and impactful. And I don't necessarily mean impactful in the "A Soldier Is Reunited To Their Family" impactful, but more of a "They're Walking Past Me In What Looks Like Seven Inch Heels And I Just Want To Lie At Their Feet Because I'm Not Worthy". You know?
Just to touch on the fashion at Pride — some of it was insane, but in the best way possible. My friend and I wore simple rainbow Pride shirts, and me, being insecure, thought this was a blaring sign saying we were straight. It really wasn't though. Pride gets a lot of (well-deserved) hype for the extremes of fashion, but what I didn't understand was that there are a lot of people who were wearing somewhat casual clothes and a simple rainbow accessory.
I found that really cool, because it showed the diversity in character of the LGBTQ community; for some, showcasing their fashion is showcasing their identity and sexuality, but for others it isn't really a factor. And I think that really speaks to Pride as a whole. In my experience, there are certain stereotypes that people want to apply to certain identities within the LGBTQ community. For example, if you're gay, you automatically like this or if you're lesbian, you don't like this.
I don't think I ever outright believed those stereotypes, but I really think Pride showed that there's no box to put people in, and it's dumb to try. Each person is their own, and they're simply united by a desire to celebrate. Which is incredible.
We ended up visiting Stonewall, which was crazy to me that we could actually go there. Unsurprisingly, it was like sardines in a can, but we managed to move our way through the crowds. For those with claustrophobia though, I do not recommend NY Pride. Across from Stonewall is the Stonewall National Monument, which is actually a tiny park. No one was allowed inside the park, but the fences were decorated with Pride flags and there were vendors all around it selling flags, stickers, bandanas: the works.
Stonewall was deeply provoking in that I realized I was troubled by my lack of knowledge about Stonewall itself. I knew it was a bar that started riots protesting for LGBTQ rights, but I didn't understand its gravity, and I knew I had to educate myself once I got back to the apartment we were staying at. For those who don't know, the Stonewall Riots was a watershed event for the LGBTQ movement, galvanizing LGBTQ organizations such as GLAAD or the Gay Liberation Front, and actually started the first Pride Parade.
New York Pride was truly incredible. I feel like everyone should go to a Pride Parade at some point, provided that they are welcomed. To celebrate, but also to learn. It is no one's responsibility but your own to educate yourself on things you may be ignorant of.
While Pride is usually viewed as purely for celebration, it was somewhat transformative for me as I learned so much more about the LGBTQ community and realized that I am really ignorant of different things within the community.
So I guess what I came away with is this: Pride is inclusive, diverse, inspirational, impactful, and so many other things. If you are an ally and choose to go, it is on you to not just be respectful, but also to have an open mind and a willingness to learn, because while allies are great, they will never truly understand what it is to be LGBTQ. So don't be afraid to go to Pride, but be ready to be slightly overwhelmed and be ready to learn.