Pride is Not a Party: When Pride Month is Lost in Translation

By: Shayna Herszage  |  August 14, 2019

By Shayna Herszage, Opinion Editor

The first day of June marked the start of Pride Month — the annual celebration of Target’s rainbow t-shirts and tutus, ‘Love is Love’ stickers, and, yes, Pride parades across the globe.

Immediately after the 2019 Pride month began, my Facebook and Instagram feeds were bombarded with pictures from various Pride events. This would have been a pleasant interruption to the negativity of social media, if not for the fact that these posts were not from members of the LGBTQ+ community. Rather, many of the posts were from my straight Facebook friends attending Pride with their other straight friends, or even their straight partners.

The heterosexuality of Pride this year was evident on a much larger scale than just attendees. Controversy grew when Ariana Grande, a straight musician, announced that she would be headlining Manchester Pride, bringing both increased numbers of heterosexual fans and heightened ticket prices to the event. 

In the midst of rainbows, drag queens, and clever, glitter-encrusted signs, it seems that we have forgotten what Pride Month is meant to celebrate, and also, that Pride, and what it stands for, extends far beyond the month of June.

Around the world, the LGBTQ+ community experiences various levels of rejection — whether it is inability to be legally married, lack of respect for their preferred pronouns, or, in some cases, living in areas where homosexuality is illegal. Specific homophobic attacks have taken place in recent years, such as the Pulse shooting during Pride Month in 2016. 

However, at the same time, the treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals in many places has improved, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States in 2015 and the formation of LGBTQ+ advocacy groups around the world, like Shoval in Israel. 

International LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance have come a long way, but it is also important to acknowledge that we, as a society, have a long way to go. This is why Pride exists — to celebrate what has been accomplished in the history of LGBTQ+ advocacy, while showing the world that LGBTQ+ communities are a presence that can not be ignored, even beyond the confines of Pride Month.

The significance of Pride Month, meanwhile, has been lost in translation. Pride parades, and Pride Month as a whole, have become an excuse for people outside of the LGBTQ+ community to put on glitter eyeliner and rainbow shorts, and to attend these events like they are global parties. When we infiltrate these events and other events which hold similar significances to other groups, we risk diluting the meaning behind them in a sea of Snapchat stories.

Often, when I make these claims, I am met with this argument: doesn’t inviting the wider (straight) community to Pride and commercializing the LGBTQ+ community, aid the path to acceptance?

I see the reasoning in the argument. Exposure to a community helps prevent its demonization. However, in this case, I disagree. The straight and cisgender people who attend Pride do not experience the community in a way that generates acceptance. Rather, they experience rainbows and glitter, aiding in the building of a caricature of what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community — white, conventionally attractive “gay best friends” who wish to watch Netflix romantic comedies with you. 

It boosts LGBTQ+ visibility, but not LGBTQ+ acceptance. The straight people who post photos at Pride in June are still the same people who snicker when a man walks past them on the sidewalk in high heels in November, or flinch when two women walk by holding hands in February.

Overall, a large portion of society is on a slow-but-steady path toward acceptance of targeted minorities such as the LGBTQ+ community. Marriage is legalized in many countries, adoption and in-vitro fertilization are possible, despite being difficult and expensive, and Gay-Straight Alliances on countless high school and university campuses have been approved. But we have a long way to go if we want to accomplish full acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community, both legally and socially. Celebrate the LGBTQ+ community’s accomplishments, acknowledge that many goals have not yet been reached, even join your LGBTQ+ friends and family members at Pride to show your support, but understand that it is Pride, not a party.