June is Pride Month, and this means that there are probably multiple events in your city celebrating the diversity and inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community. Many straight people in your faith community may want to get involved to show their support and celebrate along with members who identify as queer. While it's important to encourage this desire, it's equally vital that allies conduct themselves appropriately so that the events you attend remain the celebrations they're meant to be.
Know the History
Pride is a political act, not just an excuse to party. It commemorates the Stonewall Riots. In June of 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, an establishment that catered to the gay community, and the raid quickly became violent. Rather than cower beneath the aggression, the community fought back. Pride Month is a celebration that honors these heroes and affirms the rights of the people to resist oppression.
If straight allies don't do their homework before attending these events, it is easy to fall into the trap of appropriation. They play the part without knowing the motivation. While there is ample opportunity for revelry and joy, understanding the history behind it helps you celebrate responsibly.
People with privilege are used to society revolving around their needs. Pride, however, is not about the comfort of straight people. Several people in your group, particularly if it is their first time attending, may be overwhelmed by the way people are dressed or how they present themselves. Have a conversation with your group ahead of time to prepare them for the event and encourage them to remember that it's not about them; this will help them be better allies when the day of the event arrives.
The challenge for straight allies at Pride is to balance having a good time and joining in the celebration without centering their own enjoyment. Stepping back and making space doesn't come naturally to most people. Any attention you draw to yourselves should still be aimed at putting the spotlight on those you are there to celebrate.
Protect the Participants
One of the most important roles of straight allies at Pride events is ensuring the safety of the LGBTQIA+ participants. With every public gathering, assembly or protest, there is always the possibility of counter-protest. While the organizers are likely to hire security for their events, your group can also make Pride a safe experience. This support can look like calling out the hateful things people are saying or even placing yourself physically between the Pride participants and their oppressors. There are few ways to better communicate your support than to willingly step in to bear the brunt of the oppression yourself.
LGBTQIA+ folks have to stay acutely aware of their environment at all times. They never know when a space may suddenly become unsafe. They should not have to continue to carry that weight at Pride events. As a straight ally, you can have fun at Pride and still remain vigilant so that they don't have to be.
Continue the Work
Everyone loves a party, but relatively few people stick around for the cleanup. If you want to be an effective ally, your work must go beyond the celebration.
Start by evaluating how well your church welcomes members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Is there an inclusion statement on your website and in your welcome packet? Do you support organizations that make inclusion a priority, or do you partner with those who have a history and habit of oppression? Pride Month may just be in June, but the spirit of Pride should be a fundamental goal of your community throughout the year.
Most Pride events welcome allies to join the festivities, but it's important for straight people to remember they're not the guests of honor. Being sensitive and respectful is essential for any straight allies who attend Pride.