Pride is Not Performative

Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown
Man standing with his back to the camera with a Pride flag draped across his back.

Five Ways to Make LGBGTQ+ Pride Month Purposeful 

As we enter LGBTQ+ Pride Month, the ways in which organizations commemorate the annual celebration should go beyond corporate parade floats and rainbow flag-waving. The metric for Pride should be whether one’s actions tangibly and positively impact the material well-being of the Queer community and the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical vitality of everyone who identifies as LGBTQ+.  The following recommendations signify five things you can do to make Pride a conscious celebration and consequential success:

  1. Educate yourself about the different communities within the LGBTQ+ community. 
    As I often say: “although we are one community, we are many peoples.”  Our community is composed of many different subgroups and subcultures, each of which has their own distinct sensibilities, history, struggles, and journey.  To celebrate LGBTQ+ pride in an inclusive way, we must recognize the unique contributions of each subgroup and resist the inclination to paint the overall community with broad brushstrokes that ignore the gender, racial, religious, socio-economic and physical diversity that exists therein. As you celebrate LGBTQ+ pride, avoid the one-dimensional narratives that obscure the full beauty and complexity of the LGBTQ+ experience.
  2. Donate to LGBTQ+ organizations and causes. 
    In 2023 alone, over 650+ anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced across the U.S. Despite the celebratory nature of Pride, we should remember that Pride celebrations were born out of resistance to the bias, discrimination, and violence that LGBTQ+ people faced historically.  As a discrete and vulnerable population, the LGBTQ+ community needs resources to combat efforts to disparage and repress our community.  Donating even a small amount to LGBTQ+ organizations worldwide can ensure LGBTQ+ community members have the protections they need to live their lives with the full dignity they deserve.
  3. Examine your biases and stereotypes. 
    If you were raised in most societies across the world, you have likely been socialized to hold a cis-heteronormative worldview that suggests (even to a small degree) being heterosexual or cisgender is the ideal or preferred identity in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity. Further, you have probably been exposed to a cis-heteronormative perspective that regards any laws, regulations, or behavior that degrade LGBTQ+ people as normal or rational within a just society.  If each one of us can examine our thoughts and behaviors – whether it’s the stereotypical joke we entertain, the zero-sum gain perspective we apply when discussing LGBTQ+ rights, or the discriminatory measures that we support and co-sign – then we can avoid being bystanders or co-conspirators and start to dismantle a system that stigmatizes LGBTQ+ people.
  4. Champion LGBTQ+ contributions and elevate Queer wisdom. 
    At a time when some seek to erase Queer culture, we have an opportunity to remind the world of the enduring legacy of LGBTQ+ people on the global stage. Whether it’s the “Black Lives Matter” movement, innovations in the tech world, or the spiritual imprint of Two Spirit people, LGBTQ+ leaders have changed the world in meaningful ways that have impacted every facet of larger society.  Pride celebrants should highlight and leverage Queer wisdom in routine tasks and in crucial leadership moments every day to serve our respective communities. More importantly, we can deploy Queer cultural genius™ throughout the year and therefore make Pride not just a calendar event, but the conscious calling of a society that recognizes and appreciates the significant and distinctive contributions of the LGBTQ+ community.
  5. Support LGBTQ+ youth. 
    Whenever possible, look for ways to mentor, champion, and affirm LGBTQ+ youth. Remind them of their value and beauty. Support their full expression. Abide by them as they seek their own liberation. Speak out when you witness any actions that would diminish who they are. Mentor them and allow them to mentor you.  Illuminate the triumphant aspects of LGBTQ+ history. Help them heal their pain. Encourage them to be the best versions of themselves and not somebody else. Share trailblazing “rainbow” stories of other Queer people so they know that their story is part of a larger mosaic. When we pour love into LGBTQ+ youth, we are planting seeds that will bear fruit for generations to come.  And…the benefits of such grace, care, and compassion inure not only to the Queer community, but to everyone who is committed to creating a more peaceful, equitable, and humane world.

By committing to these five recommendations, you and your organization can celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride in an honorable and intentional way.




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