June is, among other things, National Pride Month.

Given that the pandemic is loosening its grip and mandates are being lifted, especially for outdoor gatherings, this should be a really good Pride, too. Everyone is feeling celebratory, and Pride is packed full of music, dancing and rainbows.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

But wait. Pause.

If you are a proud member of the LGTBQIA community, then this month is for you. Whatever way you decide to celebrate Pride, it seems likely it will be the right way to do so.

If, however, you are a member of the cis/straight community as am I, a little guidance in celebration-as-an-ally etiquette might come in handy. After all, while allies are invited to attend and be a part of it all, this celebration is fundamentally not “for” us.

First and foremost, although Pride is a joyful, often pretty raucous and wild, celebration, the origins of the celebration are not. This celebration arose from decades of deep trauma and violent oppression. For years, for decades, for centuries – most importantly, for the entire span of many people’s lives – the very nature of who they were was not only shunned, shamed and mocked, it was actually illegal.

As Rolling Stone notes, “The first pride protest march commemorated the Stonewall Riots, which took place during the early morning hours of June 28th, 1969. The queer community of New York City was tired of the blatant harassment and discrimination perpetuated against them by NYC police officers, so during one summer’s raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the heart of Greenwich Village, the community fought back. Transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were among two of the more prominent people to retaliate against the police forces. A year later the Pride march began, commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall riots.”

Imagine, if you can, a world where the core of who you are is literally against the law.

Personally, I’m not sure my imagination can actually stretch that far. But this tragedy of prejudice is not merely “history” we can shake our enlightened heads over. Today, as I type, there remain many places on this earth where being openly gay is not only illegal, it carries a death sentence.

Against that backdrop, a wild, joyful celebration of self is, well, it is a necessity. How else can a person, a community, proclaim defiance against hate?

One of the most fundamental aspects of the celebration is the freedom to openly “be.” No hiding, no shame, no pretending. Open, honest, proud. And it is important, as a good ally, to join in that. That said, there’s a fine line between acceptance and gawking; between gaining awareness and inappropriate quizzing. Be aware of those lines, and stay on the respectful side of them.

More importantly, take a moment from the party to contemplate the actual work of being an ally. Do you support anti-discrimination legislation? Do you check yourself for bias? Do you interrupt a shaming joke at a party to say it’s not OK, even if it’s a friend doing the joking?

Pride is a wonderful celebration of self. I look forward to the day when we are all free to be fully ourselves and can all dance at the party together.

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