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5 essential tips for surviving your first-ever Pride

5 essential tips for surviving your first-ever Pride

Selfie of a LGBT group of young people celebrating gay pride day holding rainbow flag together. Homosexual community smiling and taking cheerful self portrait. Lesbian couple and friends generation z
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We've all got to start somewhere, right?

@andrewjstillman


Happy pride month banner. Rainbow colored background.

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It’s the time of year to celebrate your queerness and find a Pride event near you to join with your fellow community to do so.

As fun as it is to celebrate every June, someone out there is celebrating their first Pride each year. Veteran Pride goers may forget this, and they may also forget what it was like to go through their first one. My first Pride was only a few years ago in 2021, so I’m still learning the ropes myself, but I know all about what it’s like to be a freshly initiated Pride attendee.

The first Pride overall happened in June 1970 to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, which led to some major changes in the LGBTQ+ community. It’s okay if it’s your first time celebrating and not your 54th, and it’s equally okay if you’re nervous and don’t know what to expect.

If you’re heading into this Pride season as a virgin to the experience, here are five tips to help you make the most of it:

1. Be okay with doing things on your own

a young caucasian man seen from behind holding a lgbt rainbow flag over his head against blue sky.

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If you’re anything like me in 2021, you’re celebrating your first Pride because you’d never had an opportunity before and you've just moved to a brand new city that’s hosting one. If that’s true for you and you haven’t had much time to get your footing, you might not have a local friend group to do anything with. Scary as it is, just be okay with doing whatever you want, even if you don’t have anyone to do it with.

This also counts if you do have local friends and come to a crossroads in certain interests. They may want to go to a festival where you want to go to a party, or different bars may have events that pull you away from each other. It’s certainly great to have a group of friends to do things with, but don’t hold yourself back from doing something you want just because you’re afraid to go at it alone.

2. Plan and book ahead of time

Budapest, Hungary - 24, July, 2021: people celebrate the Budapest Pride March demands for better rights and equality at the Freedom bridge. Budapest Pride is a series of LGBTQ events in Budapest

Raketir/Shutterstock

Honestly, courage aside, this is the most important thing you need to do. Plan your outfits, your excursions, your bars, your parties, and what you’re going to do and when. Pride is not an event to leave everything until the last minute or wait to figure out what you’re doing when you get there. It takes planning and preparation, so do your best not to show up and get blindsided by something you didn’t know.

When you’re planning your events, booking is key. Things sell out, and often quick. You may be able to find ways to get into sold-out events, but don’t count on that. Planning ahead means booking your events first, then everything else comes later.

3. Stay aware of your surroundings and be safe

Wilmington, NC, USA: Narcan, used to counter the effects of opioid overdoses, is sold over-the-counter at a public pharmacy. 9-13-2023

Darwin Brandis/Shutterstock

A brief womp-womp, apologies, but the truth is that Pride events are full of drugs and alcohol, and sometimes the two don’t mix well. This isn’t a D.A.R.E. speech and you can do whatever you want, but just be aware that it’s not uncommon for people to overdose at any given time during Pride. Do yourself a favor and stock up on a supply of Narcan for you or your friends as a just-in-case. If someone has an opioid overdose, they’ll be thankful that you did.

Outside of the drugs, the even more sad truth is that the LGBTQ+ community is still on the receiving end of a lot of attacks, and some of those are physical and fatal. There have been numerous warnings about terrorist attacks on various Pride events this year, so just stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you at all times. Unfortunately, we live in a world divided by people who want peace and love split by people who prefer violence and hatred, so stay vigilant.

4. Be open to trying new things

Joyful eccentric male drag queens in wigs and festive dresses with bright makeup screaming happily while standing near friend blowing candles on cake during birthday celebration

Galdric PS/Shutterstock

On to some more fun topics, be open to anything when you go to Pride. You can have your boundaries, of course. There isn’t any reason to completely forget who you are, but be open to trying something you might not otherwise have done. During my first Pride, I went to my first DILF night in San Diego, which was also my first time going to a clothes-checked event. I sardined myself with my arms crossed the whole time because of sensory overload, but it opened me to a world that led to me teaching naked yoga, so you never know what might happen.

For you, trying new things could even be getting involved with a crowd in the first place. Maybe it’s dressing in rainbow colors or barely dressing in anything at all. Social anxiety is a real thing, and I totally get it. Outside of lack of opportunity, I also avoided Pride events out of nerves and fear that I wouldn’t fit in. I grew up in a small backwoods town and thought you had to scrunch into a certain mold to even fit into the gay world at all, but that isn’t true. Pride is all about colorful expression at its finest and daring to tap into the depths of who you are in a proud display to the world. Be open to wherever that experience leads you for the first time.

5. Have fun and enjoy being immersed in your community

Group of happy people in carnival costumes dancing and having fun during Mardi Gras festival on the street.

Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock

The most important thing to do on your first Pride experience is to have fun. Let it be a moment. If you have to do something alone, don’t let it ruin your experience. If there’s something you’ve wanted to try before but never dared let yourself explore, don’t hold back. Freedom of expression is about freedom of self, and freedom of self is about relinquishing any worry about whatever anyone else may think of you.

Remember that we’re all a community and we’re all in this together. You may run into people you don’t mesh with or ones who don’t like you along the way, but that’s okay. Dive into this headfirst with an open mind, and you won’t believe the possibilities and ways it can transform you for the rest of your life.

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Andrew J. Stillman

Contributing Writer for Pride.com

Andrew J. Stillman is a freelance writer and yoga instructor exploring the world. Check him out at andrewjstillman.com or follow him @andrewjstillman on all the things.

Andrew J. Stillman is a freelance writer and yoga instructor exploring the world. Check him out at andrewjstillman.com or follow him @andrewjstillman on all the things.