It’s June, and you know what that means! Warm weather, Father’s Day, breaking out the barbecues and tiki bars… and businesses around the world changing their social media profile pictures into rainbow versions of their company logo. That’s right, it’s officially Pride.
But Pride is about so much more than a profile change, a hashtag, a custom merch line, or performative allyship. So if you’re out here wondering why Lulu and so many other businesses are rolling out the rainbow displays and the updated logos and the blog posts declaring how important Pride is… maybe this will help. Consider it an introductory primer to Pride – where it comes from, who it’s for, and what you can do to show your support for it.
And hey, don’t mistake the tone of this introduction – I love the effort and intent behind so many people, places, and businesses sharing their support for Pride. I think it’s incredible to see that kind of inclusivity and nonverbal indication that “this is a safe space, you are welcome here.” Just as long as that message truly is reflective of that person, place, or business’s core values.
Also, a follow-up disclaimer: no one person can speak for the queer experience at large. I can and will share some facts, some experiences, and some opinions, but at the end of the day, the experiences and opinions are mine and mine alone.
A Brief History of Pride
These days many people are used to a very celebratory Pride experience – rainbow flags and bright clothes and glittery makeup and joyous parades – but it’s important to remember where Pride has its roots: Pride started as a riot. Specifically, the Stonewall riots (sometimes known as the Stonewall Uprising) of 1969.
The quick and dirty summary is this: eight undercover police officers raided The Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village. As they arrested employees, drag queens, and other patrons “masquerading as a member of the opposite sex” (which, at the time, was a crime in New York State), displaced patrons and members of the queer community fought back in an effort to protect one of their very few safe spaces.
Over the next several days, gay rights activists flocked to the beloved bar to protest and show their support, resisting repeated NYPD efforts to both continue their raid and “restore order.” Many well-known activists and figures in queer history are believed to have been present at the riots, including lesbian activist Stormé DeLarverie, whose rough treatment from the NYPD incited protests from the crowd, as well as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two transgender women of color believed to be among those attempting to resist arrest.
So how did we get from a protest to a parade? Cut to one year later, on the first anniversary of the initial raid of The Stonewall Inn (a bar that is still standing today. In fact, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2016). Gay rights activists organized the Christopher Street Liberation March, which ultimately gained several thousand supporters marching to celebrate the queer community and remember the events of June 28, 1969. That tradition has grown and grown, and now cities around the world host their own Pride parades every June to celebrate the community and honor the events and activists that got us here today.
For more insight on the impact of the Stonewall riots on the modern Gay Rights Movement, check out this article from All That’s Interesting or this piece from The Atlantic about David Carter’s book Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution.
A Crash Course in Acronyms
One of the most beautiful things about the queer experience is that it’s ever-evolving. As individuals around the world do more introspective and interpersonal exploration, and as we all work to understand ourselves and others with more openness, we find more ways to best identify ourselves. People aren’t stagnant, and it’s amazing that our understanding of ourselves and our identities grows and changes.
But it can also confuse people who are new to the community or those trying to understand and be better allies. How can I best support, or even speak to/about, a community that is constantly redefining itself? Words like “queer” have gone from having innocuous definitions unrelated to sexuality, to being negative/taboo, to being positive and accepted identifiers. The acronym most commonly used to refer to the queer community is LGBT. But it’s also LGBTQ. Or is it LGBTQ+? LGBTQIA+? LGBTQQIP2SAA??? And what do all those letters even mean?
The reality is, no one person can tell you which acronym is the “right one” – different people prefer different options. Ultimately, while the acronym might vary, the goal is the same: to represent and include as many different people and identities as possible.
Personally, I tend to use LGBTQ or LGBTQ+. I find the Q (for Queer) sufficient and broad enough to encompass the variety of identities not covered by the LGBT (including, for the record, my own). But what about the longer ones? What identities do those include?
- L = Lesbian
- G = Gay
- B = Bisexual
- T = Transgender
- Q = Queer
- Q = Questioning
- I = Intersex
- P = Pansexual
- 2S = Two-Spirit
- A = Asexual
- A = Ally
For a better understanding of any of these identities (and more!) check out this great reference guide from GLAAD.
Why Does Pride Matter?
You may be asking yourself why this all matters. Why it suddenly seems like every month is a big banner Awareness Month – Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Pride, and that’s only the first half of the year.
We’ve talked a lot about this in the past – about The Importance Of Reading Black Literature and the relationship between Mental Health And Reading. We’ve talked about How Self-Publishing Supports Marginalized Communities. We’ve even talked about Pride before; in 2021 I shared a post on The Importance Of Representation In Literature and what it meant to me, and our VP of Marketing shared his experience as a parent of a transgender teen. I know I said I couldn’t speak for anyone other than myself in this post, but I think I can speak for all of us on Team Lulu when I say that inclusivity, representation, and equity are incredibly important to us as individuals and as a company.
The answer is simple: because representation matters.
Everybody deserves to see themselves represented in media. The world is full of an incredibly diverse range of people – different races, different cultures, different religions, different ages, different gender identities, different sexual identities, different interests and beliefs and hobbies and experiences, and on and on. Creating, sharing, and amplifying content that showcases these diversities benefits all of us. It shows the people who share these identities that they’re not alone – there are others out there that feel or think or look the same way they do. But it also creates an opportunity for people who do not identify a certain way to gain some understanding of people that do.
For a longer, more in-depth discussion of the importance of representation – and events like Pride or Juneteenth – I would recommend any of the blog posts linked in the paragraph above.
What Can I Do to Support Pride?
It can be confusing, sometimes, to understand how best you can contribute to, participate in, or otherwise show your support for special awareness months like Pride. Don’t let that uncertainty or hesitation stop you from trying! There are so many ways that someone who doesn’t identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community can show true allyship this month.
You may have heard this before, but it’s important enough that it bears repeating: nobody else is responsible for educating you about what you don’t know. Now is not the time to email your gay coworker and ask them to explain what Pride means to them. Spoiler alert: it never is.
The burden of educating yourself about different sexuality and gender identities is entirely on you. But that also doesn’t mean you have to do it alone! We are lucky enough to live in the age of the internet; you have a world of highly valuable resources right at your fingertips.
Visit websites like the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, PFLAG, The Trevor Project, and more. Keep an eye out for other blog posts like this one—there will be plenty of people putting together comprehensive resource guides this month. Also look for educational resources on social media, especially if you like your content bite-sized! While it’s true, nobody owes you the time and emotional effort of educating you, plenty of respected and recognized queer creators on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter have already worked to create educational content.
It’s also important to remember that education is an ongoing activity! Our society and culture are changing on a local and global scale every single day – those of us that want to stay in the loop know that we need to regularly seek out new things to help us understand new perspectives and experiences.
Experience a New Perspective
Educating yourself doesn’t have to be just reading blog posts and long-form articles and watching documentary-length YouTube videos – it can be fun too. We’re slowly seeing a rise in more and more books, movies, and tv shows that show (front and center, in a positive light) queer experiences. Watch or read them!
You don’t have to be a pirate to appreciate Our Flag Means Death, and you don’t have to be gay to appreciate a queer love story like Heartstopper. You can laugh at the iconic and hilarious writing, acting, directing, and producing that netted Schitt’s Creek all seven Emmys in a single year, even if you don’t understand David Rose’s sexuality (it’s pansexual, for the record, and he has an amazing bit of dialogue to explain it in more relatable terms).
These stories don’t always have to be about the character’s queer identity. It’s also important to read and watch content that represents the reality that queer people and characters exist outside of their sexual identity. Books like Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey (murder mystery), Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (sci-fi/fantasy), or Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (fantasy novella) feature queer main characters whose sexuality, while relevant to them, is not the end all be all of the stories.
Why is it important to consume media created by and about queer people? Two reasons. First, it’s a great way to help with that educational experience, giving you a perspective that you may not get to see very often. But beyond that educational experience and understanding, it shows support for the content. Queer creators (and any other minority creator, for that matter) have to fight hard to see their book, movie, show, etc. come to life. The reality is that we live in a culture that only promotes mainstream content for one reason: to make money off it. Publishers, producers, and streaming platforms are all looking for stories they believe will garner the most money and attention from fans.
When audiences prove that shows like Heartstopper or Queer Eye can break the Netflix Top Ten for multiple consecutive weeks or when books like Red, White, & Royal Blue hit the New York Times bestsellers list, what the content gatekeepers are seeing is that queer content can sell just as well as more heteronormative content. When they see that there is an audience for these stories, they (hopefully) open the door for more to come.
By now you’ve probably seen your fair share of “Pride Collections” rolled out from various companies. In fact, if you Google “Pride Collection” right now, you’ll see results that run the gamut from Target and Disney to Calvin Klein and Coach to MeUndies and Bombas. Some of them (keyword: some of them) even pledge to use their Pride merch to support and give back to the LGBTQ+ community.
If you’re looking for ways to support both the LGBTQ+ community and your shopping habits, consider shopping from companies that pledge to donate proceeds from this month’s sales. If you’re really looking for ways to support the LGBTQ+ community this month, consider shopping from queer-owned small businesses.
Identify Yourself as a Safe Space
Statistically, it’s extremely likely that you know someone who is a part of the LGBTQ+ community. You may or may not know it, they may not be out to you (or to anyone), but it’s still very probable. So make it clear to those people that you are an ally and a safe space.
How? There are all kinds of ways you can do that. Some options are overt – organizations like GLSEN sell “Safe Space” stickers or the Human Rights Campaign’s famous Equality sticker (you can request your first one for free if you’re new to HRC). Some options are more subtle, and include the suggestions listed above – educate yourself, engage with marginalized stories and media, and then talk about your experiences! If I overhear someone I know saying “I finally watched Love, Simon this weekend, it was so cute,” I immediately feel a little bit safer being my authentic self with that person.
I’m not saying you need to immediately go hang a rainbow flag on your home or office (although if you want to, there are certainly plenty of options). Find a way that feels comfortable and authentic for you to express that you are a safe and trustworthy person.
Whether you’re donating time or money (or both) it’s undeniable that donations and volunteer work can go a long way in supporting marginalized communities. If you have a little extra to spare and have the opportunity to donate money this month, consider some of these organizations, including:
As for volunteering, you can spend your time in plenty of different ways. Connect with an organization like The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that works specifically to prevent suicide among LGBTQ+ kids and teens. You can also look for community organizations that are working at a more local level to fight for equality and representation – here in North Carolina, where Lulu is based, that might be EqualityNC.
Now is also a great time to reach out to your city, regional, and even state elected officials. Remember that allyship is inclusive – supporting marginalized communities doesn’t mean just supporting one community, but equality for all of them.
Want to start your support by shopping LGBTQ+ books by Lulu Authors? We’re featuring a few of our favorite inclusive reads on the Lulu Bookstore, check them out here:
Lauren is the Social Media Manager at Lulu, which means she gets paid to spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram every day. When she’s not browsing social media she can often be found voraciously reading romance novels, collecting books, or attempting to exorcize her cat.