Pride is a very special time of year for me: It has been a blessing and an honor to have participated in many Pride events and marches over the past 8 plus years. This year is especially significant for me because the Tyler Clementi Foundation will officially participate as a non-profit organization in the New York City/Stonewall 50 March on June 30th with our partner Mean Girls on Broadway. We are honored and proud to celebrate with the LGBTQ community as we share our mission, to end all online and offline bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities; as well as carry Tyler’s legacy in this year’s parade.
I have learned so much about Pride since my first Pride March, as well as the LGBTQ community that warmly welcomed and embraced our family after my son Tyler died by suicide. Whether it’s your first event or not, here are a few basics that are always helpful to remember:
- Pride celebrations are for everyone. If you do not identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you are absolutely still welcome at these celebrations as an ally.
- You don’t have to walk in a parade in order to attend or participate. Most people go to show support and cheer the walkers on.
- Not all Pride events are the same. Pride events vary greatly, ranging from small-town gatherings with entertainment and flag-raising ceremonies to much larger extravaganzas with wild displays of theatricality. These larger events can sometimes be overwhelming at first: Just go with an open attitude, ready to enjoy the festivities.
- Bring a friend. It’s always nice to have a buddy to share your first experience with, especially if you think it might be out of your comfort zone.
- Plan ahead. Pride events in larger cities can be overwhelming and attract huge crowds, so remember to designate a meeting point ahead of time just in case you get separated.
- Be mindful of how people identify–and don’t assume. As with all groups, there is diversity within the LGBTQ community as well. Not everyone who appears straight or in a straight-looking relationship actually identifies that way: They could be genderqueer, trans, bisexual, pansexual, Two Spirit, etc. You simply cannot tell someone’s identity or story just by how they look. Also, try to avoid misgendering people you meet–ask for their pronouns proactively!
- Don’t forget the reason behind the celebration. In 2019, we are celebrating 50 years since the Stonewall uprising, which many see as the defining event that kickstarted the modern-day LGBTQ movement. This breaking point came when the patrons of the Stonewall Inn in NYC stood up and resisted arrest in response to simply being their true authentic selves and gathering together to find support and community with each other. That sparked the crowd gathering outside to fight back, causing the riots that followed.
- Wear whatever makes you comfortable–that’s what Pride is all about! Be, dress, and express yourself the way you feel most comfortable. That could be anything from tutus and fishnets to T-shirts with supportive messages–or it could be what you leave the house in on an average day. This day is for you to feel comfortable with yourself.
- Be proud of who you are. And never remain a passive bystander when you see someone being targeted, humiliated, or bullied for who they are, but rather stand up and speak out, respectfully of course, as an active upstander!
- Most of all, enjoy the celebrations and festivities. Happy Pride!
The Tyler Clementi Foundation’s mission is to end online and offline bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities. Founded in 2011 by the Clementi family in memory of Tyler – a son, brother, and friend – the foundation’s bullying prevention and education programs include the Upstander Pledge, #Day1, Upstander Speaker Series, Tyler’s Suite, and True Faith Doesn’t Bully. The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act would require colleges and universities receiving federal funding to prohibit harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.