Skip the parade: here’s how to celebrate Pride 2020 all month long

Oh, Pride. The celebration, the canoodling – the gallons of glitter. With so much revelry happening all month long, it’s easy to think that Pride has always been a party. For some, the fact that we’re celebrating in honor of the Stonewall riots has been more or less forgotten. When June rolls around, everyone unfurls rainbow flags outside their businesses, thinking one month of performing acceptance is enough. Companies replace their pens with rainbow ones, and cocktails are given a queer twist. We’re told that Pride is all around us. From the outside, it seems like the struggle is over. I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

We’re still enmeshed in the fight. Violence, discrimination, and harrassment are all around us. If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, I know I’m preaching to the choir. Each year, loads of us roll our eyes at this display of “rainbow capitalism” – corporations, governments, and police financially profiting off displaying rainbow flags for one month instead of actually supporting our community in any meaningful way.

There’s no better place to see that hard at work than a Pride fest or parade. Everywhere you go, banks and law enforcement and major chain stores hand out logo-happy fans, flags, and pins to the queer people that have been struggling to exist out in public their whole lives.

I won’t go so far as to say we should shun all Pride events. They can be amazing – personally, I met some of my best friends at Pride 2017 in Denver, and if I hadn’t made the trek to the festival grounds and passed all those health insurance company booths with rainbow pens for the taking, I wouldn’t have made some life-changing friendships.

What I will say is this: you don’t need big companies and their booths – or those crowds of straight people less interested in allyship and more interested in party crashing – to do up the Stonewall anniversary right.

Because the queer community is a group of rioters and partiers, and we are proud – dang proud – of where we’ve come from. Why limit ourselves to one city block? Here are some ways to take back the street, the neighborhood, and the whole rambling city, one self-made rainbow flag at a time.

Host a get together

Don’t wait for the city sanctioned Pride event: make your own. Celebrating your sweet community can start in your own living room with some good friends and acquaintances. If you have the space to do so, host a get together that brings everyone to one space. Don’t think you’ll have to make the party happen on your own. Opposed to queer gatekeepers and homophobes alike, I don’t think there are any firmly rooted qualities most of us share - but I do think our collective struggle has birthed a love of community in us all. That’s why we’re called the queer community, right? We know what it’s like to be pushed down – and we know what it’s like to lift each other up.

Embrace that as you plan a get together. Start with the foundation of my favorite queer gatherings: a potluck. Not all your friends have to be masters of cornbread or home fries. Some might just be real good at buying a case of wine from Trader Joe’s. Whatever their strengths in the potluck game are, let them shine, and you’ll soon be basking in the benefit of food and friendship bursting off every table, couch, and floorspace available. To get that community feeling rolling, combine your get-together with a clothing swap. Trade old clothes for new, bust out that glitter, and let old duds find new life on your friends’ bods.

Want to kick that up another notch? Hold a joint Pride and Juneteenth celebration, so all your friends can get together and celebrate liberation, community, and togetherness.

Shop from queer-owned businesses

For some of us, Pride presents a ripe opportunity to buy a bunch of cute gay things. But instead of piling them all into your Amazon cart, you can buy things that represent you while supporting the LGBTQ community. To find queer-run businesses, you can look online for lists like this one. For Pride-specific tees, don’t go corporate. Stick to shirts made by actual LGBTQ-run companies – they’re generally more unique anyway.

Your support for queer-owned businesses doesn’t just end at buying Pride-themed things though. Take the time to look up restaurants, tattoo parlors, grocery stores, and coffee shops run by the community. If you live in a larger city, check your weekly free newspapers. The ones you can pick up around downtown areas and pedestrian-heavy spots may just feature a list of LGBTQ businesses in your city. Even in a smaller town, they’re out there – and it’s time for you to put your moolah where your beliefs are. Also, queer spots might just have fun events up their sleeves...

...like a drag brunch.

If you want to support performers working hard to entertain, a drag brunch is a great way to enjoy some food and support your community in one tasty swoop. Look online for a drag brunch near you to see what kind of magic your local performers have up their glittery sleeves.

Drag brunch isn’t just beautiful performers dishing up pancakes for the after-Church crowd. Instead, it’s a whir of stunning theatrics, singing, and togetherness as drag queens flit around the room, giving each brunch attendee a morning to remember. 

This is a great option for folks who aren’t night owls that still want to hit up a drag performance and have a good time. And although some people are frustrated by the idea that drag brunch is making drag culture “mainstream.” think of it like this: this kind of event helps drag queens live their lives with regular working hours, and gives them the night and afternoon free to enjoy with their friends and family.

Curious to see what it’s all about? Find one in your area by looking on social media, searching Eventbrite, or just googling “drag brunch” with the name of your city.

If you come up empty handed, you may just need to fall back on old faithful, gear up for a night out, and head to a drag night. Those are much easier to find, even in smaller cities. which will be easier to find. While you won’t be noshing on pancakes, you can still nurse a cocktail or mocktail while you watch drag queens performing and showing each other how it’s done. 

Just be sure you’re cheering each of them on as loud as you can. There will be no shortage of drag events and performances at your fingertips with Pride month underway, so don’t hesitate.

See some burlesque

Burlesque is a queertastic way to spend an evening of your month of Pride. No two pieces are exactly alike, and each performer pours a bit of themselves into their art for you each and every night. Often, you’ll enjoy one sexy performance followed by a funny one, followed by an eerie one – all in one show. 

Not all burlesque is queer, but a good portion of it is, and by nature, burlesque is intimate, different, and totally unique from other kinds of performance. Pride is a prime month to go, because almost every burlesque troupe out there will be hosting a event brimming with rainbow-themed performances of all stripes. 

No matter what event you attend, you can expect several different acts to come out and strip down in dazzling layers of sequins, glitz, and glory. As opposed to contrary belief, it’s not all polished and classic performances a la Deeta Von Teese. Burlesque can be funny, like Xena Zeitgeist’s work, a New Orleans-based performer who specializes in a range of acts, including nerdlesque and comedy bits, like performing as Charlie Day or the Glamburglar (yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like). Performers like them show the breadth of the queer world of burlesque.

But what I love most about these events is that it’s open for every kind of performer. Although beauty standards abound in all performative spaces, burlesque has room for all shapes, sizes, ages, and gender expressions to get a chance to shine, so you can enjoy every sexy body that comes across that stage.

Don’t know where to look for burlesque? Bars with an extra room, queer spaces, and small theaters are a good place to look. And as always, the internet is your friend. Check social media and Eventbrite to see what options are in your neighborhood. You might be surprised by how many different kinds of burlesque are in driving distance. Find one that speaks to you and your interests. You may love it so much that you find yourself sucked into that world, taking burlesque classes to learn the sweet, sweet ropes.

Go to a play party

What better way to feel proud of your sexuality than by going to a party dedicated to letting everyone’s freak flags fly? Play parties happen in nearly every city in the states, and there’s a practical guarantee you’ll find one in driving distance – especially during Pride. 

Play parties vary depending on who’s hosting, but you can expect a few key similarities in them all. For starters, they’re often a sampler of different kinks, including whips, paddles, and fire play.  And no matter the play party, all shapes, sizes, ages, and genders are welcome – if you’re down to get sexy, you’re invited. Best of all, even the smallest play parties emphasize consent, and you should expect to sign a contract and get a rundown on how to respect other people’s boundaries. Usually, there’s a common safeword that reigns supreme – usually green, yellow, and red. The heart of any sexy time is consent, and it’s on every attendee (including you!) to make sure the play party is as scintillating as it can be for everyone involved. With license to express yourself and respect others, you’re free to talk about everything you love in the bedroom, from used panties to electroshocks – as long as the person you’re talking to is down.

This emphasis on consent makes it a safe place for you to open yourself up to new experiences and partners. One of the best parts of a play party? It’s a prime night to explore your sexuality. You can see what it’s like to get a good whipping from someone of a different gender than you’re used to, or to get tied up by someone you may not normally be intimate with. 

Your experimentation could have nothing to do with sexuality; it could be all about gender expression. Try something new! You can put on more makeup, bind your chest, or wear a corset, and see what it’s like to play with your gender in a fresh way. Pride is a time to experiment, and in doing something different, you may just find your truest self.

Queer bar hopping

During Pride, you and I both know every queer bar in town will be swarming with people. If you’d rather avoid the press of too many bodies, do yourself a favor and avoid the busiest nights – the ones after the parade. If you’re lucky enough to live in a town with multiple gay bars,  there will be events happening nearly every night of the week at a different bar during Pride month.

Everything from L Word watch parties to trivia to karaoke happens on off nights at a good gay bar, so you can revel in the camaraderie any night of the week.

If you’re more of the rowdy type (guilty as charged), skip the parades day of, head straight for the bars in your finest garb, and get ready to dance the night away surrounded by other sweaty, glittering beauties.

Read good LGBTQ lit

Okay, I’ll admit, I’m an absolute dancing fanatic, and I love a good party, but there’s one thing that holds my love more than everything else: books. That’s why I’m a writer. So it comes as no surprise to anyone that I’m including reading as one of my very favorite ways to get my Pride on. 

Look for books by LGBTQ authors, instead of just books with LGBTQ representaiton. You’ll find no shortage of characters to love whose sexuality isn’t just a slapdash add-on (looking at you, J.K. Rowling). Your local library and bookstores may have a few suggestions on display, but I also have a few favorites that give a real sense of the breadth of LGBTQ literary talent. 

Start with the classics. James Baldwin is a stunning American author from Harlem that should be at the top of every LGBTQ reading list. His pieces unpack race and oppression with a diamond-encrusted lens. A good choice for getting introduced to his work? His essay “Notes of a Native Son.”

For more contemporary authors, check out Indra Das. In 2017, he wrote a fantastic book called The Devourers that is surprising in its quiet queerness, beauty, and raw power as it explores what it means to be someone who changes. I’m usually someone who turns her nose up at werewolf stories, but trust me when I say that this book is seriously worth your time.

But one of my favorite authors of all time, if not my very favorite, happens to also be a bi icon: Jacqueline Carey. With a varied style that ranges from classic epic to snarky sci-fi, she is an author whose work has helped many of us in the in-between spaces learn to love ourselves, our bi and pansexuality, and our nonbinary tendencies. Best place to get started is her to dive right into her trilogy of trilogies called Kushiel’s Legacy, which are best described as if Game of Thrones were better written and like all rape and violence against women had been replaced with tender, polyamorous, queer love. It’s that good. Everything she writes deserves a second read – or a fourth. Looking for an underrated book about trans* power? Give Starless a read.

Watch queer movies

Don’t just stop with a book from the library. If you’re not much of a reader (or just want to enjoy more queer media) you can always look into movies and television shows by queer filmmakers. Just like with books, don’t settle for movies that have queer characters in them but are written by straight people. You can enjoy some great queer movies made by LGBTQ folks for LGBTQ folks.

Don’t know where to start? You can never go wrong with the iconic 1999 hit But I’m a Cheerleader. This movie is campy gold that offered many of us our first glance at other ways to love. 

Thankfully, the past few years have brought us new queer media, with great movies and shows emerging all the time. 

If you’re looking for a recent queer movie that pushes well beyond the tragic lesbians trope, Colette is a period piece that shows the LGBTQ community was rich and alive centuries ago.

If you can, you may have fun at a queer film festival, like Outfest, or even something small like Portland’s annual Queer Horror. These may not coincide with Pride month, but hey – Pride’s all year, am I right?

Host a craft night

You know what those movies would pair well with? A get together that involves crafting with friends. Craft night can mean all kinds of things, but it cuts to the core of the queer community: collaboration and togetherness.

Celebrate that by creating something vibrant and vital together. A craft night is what you make it, and you can either make individual projects everyone takes home, embark on one big thing together, or just have everyone bring whatever they’re working on and share supplies. You can make a banner together, doll up some old clothes with cute and quirky new baubles, or make one big communal painting to hang at whoever’s house you all congregate at the most.

Drive to a small town’s Pride

While this is still technically going to a parade, hear me out. There’s something very different about going to a small-town parade rather than a major one. Instead of getting lost in the crush of bodies during Pride at San Francisco, Denver, New York, L.A., or New Orleans, you can actually breathe in these smaller events.

Why do this at all? If you can, it’s powerful to support queer people in smaller towns that may not have as broad of a community as yours. Plus, those smaller crowds mean a one-on-one chance to talk to people, see some sights, and get an authentic experience. It’s also a chance to see what queer folks on the frontlines of the rest of the country are experiencing and doing – especially helpful if your worldview is shaped by, say, Los Angeles. So take a day trip, make some new friends, and connect with a new town. It’s a great chance to see your very favorite community thriving all around the country. 

Have a threesome

Okay, I know, I feel like I suggest threesomes for just about every occasion. But seriously. A threesome (or foursome, or moresome) is one of the most fun ways to celebrate Pride. The season is all about love, and what better way to share in that than by enjoying people’s sweet bods? 

After all, Pride is a prime time to experiment, and if you’ve always been curious about giving a new kind of oral – or you’re like me and want to celebrate your bi/pan/queer nature – a threesome is a great time to have your cake and eat it (out) too.

Enjoy yourself, explore the delight of new bodies, and let yourself sink into the pleasure unfolding right in front of you. To make sure you’re playing right, remember a few things: there’s no wrong way to play as long as you give both lovers equal time and affection, check in with boundaries at every step, and remember the other folks in your bed are human beings with sexual and emotional needs.

You do you

Pride is so much more than a festival. It’s a feeling, a mentality, and a time for all of us to relish in happiness and pleasure in one glorious space. Like Madonna says, express yourself, whether that’s out dancing, at an art night, or curled around a Jacqueline Carey novel you picked up from the library. There’s no wrong way to be queer – if you feel it, then you’re being it. So get proud and celebrate in the way that’s best for you.