Like any other large parade or festival, the likelihood of something terrible happening a Pride parade is pretty low. That said, from 2020 to 2021, reported hate crimes in the U.S. rose by more than 11%, according to data collected by the FBI. LGBTQ+ people saw some of the highest increases, making up nearly half of all reported incidences.
Pride Safety 101: How to Stay Safe While Celebrating
"Queerphobia is unfortunately on the rise, particularly for people who appear more outwardly queer or trans," says Jaron Soh, the openly gay co-founder & CEO of Voda, the LGBTQIA+ mental wellness app developed with leading LGBTQIA+ psychotherapists. "However, Pride Month is a time for us to express our authentic selves, and we shouldn't have to repress ourselves due to fear and queerphobia."
In 2023, the LGBTQ+ community, especially the transgender community, is being systematically attacked with anti-LGBTQ+ bills. As we celebrate, we must remember that there is still much work to be done. Part of that work means keeping ourselves and others out of harm's way. Here are 13 tips for staying safe during Pride.
Charge your Devices
This one's pretty basic, but it pays to be prepared. You don't want to get stuck in a situation where your phone dies and you can't text/call friends or use Google Maps. Charge your phone the night before you head out to celebrate and pack a small portable charger, just in case.
Know the Area
Maps, routes and times are usually available online for larger Pride events. However, it's worth taking some time to familiarize yourself with where events occur.
"If you are new to where the event is taking place, take a few minutes to Google Map it and learn the layout," says Justin Perlman, a contributor at Women's Health Interactive with an extensive background in disaster response. It's super easy to download an offline map, too.
If you're visiting a familiar bar or part of town, Perlman reminds Pride-goers to refresh their memory on the exits and quickest routes to safety. It's also helpful to note local emergency numbers and where to find the public restrooms.
Go with Friends
"There is strength in numbers, and being around those we love and who care about us can help us feel safer and enjoy Pride more," Soh said. However, Soh notes that many queer folks struggle with loneliness, and it's also perfectly OK if you do not yet have a group of friends to attend Pride with. There are local meetup groups you can join, as well as local nonprofits that plan Pride gatherings. PrideFinder is a helpful resource for finding Pride events around the world. You can also check out the Facebook group for your city's parade to see if anyone is looking for people to go with.
Have a Plan
Let people know where you will be and what to do if something happens. "Tell your friends you're going to Bar X, and if something happens, you will get to safety and contact them in some way to let them know you're OK or are in danger," Perlman said. You can also use location-sharing apps like Life360 or Find My Friends to stay connected with your group.
Dress for Anything
Wear comfortable clothing, especially shoes.
"I know those 8" heels look killer with your outfit, but no one will care if all they see of them is a chalk outline," Perlman said.
Pride celebrations are often long days of walking, marching, dancing and direct sunlight. Georgia McKenzie, Founder and CEO of Switch on Business, says to bring a water bottle and stay hydrated throughout the day. Also, apply a broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF of at least 30 (and reapply every two hours, especially after sweating).
"Watch out for those who are indeed going to Pride alone," says Soh. "Speak up for our community, particularly our trans and non-binary friends, who are under considerable heavy attack from the media right now." Consider inviting them into your friend group, too, if you feel that they are nervous.
"Respect the environment around you by being mindful of your actions and words," says McKenzie. In addition, she says it's important to respect each other's individual beliefs, backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations. After all, that's part of what Pride is all about.
Don't Feed the Trolls
"There will undoubtedly be some loudmouth asshats around there to ruin everyone's time," Perlman said. His best advice? "Ignore them and steer clear, no matter how funny it is to see them get so angry by seeing people be happy." Deny them the satisfaction of an angry reaction -or any reaction at all. Staying away can also help you avoid potentially dangerous altercations.
Take Care of Yourself
Don't forget to take care of yourself. McKenzie encourages Pride-goers to take breaks if they need them and stay within their comfort zone. "If you feel overwhelmed or unsafe, find the nearest safe space and get help from Pride volunteers or security personnel," she says.
Learn Some First Aid
Knowing how to care for others is never a bad idea, and it's a great skill to bring to Pride. Perlman advises people to learn how to properly apply tourniquets and basic field first aid. This way, if anything goes down, you'll have the skills to give anyone injured the best chance before help arrives. He says there are great YouTube tutorials out there for precisely these situations. I like this one.
Have Emergency Contacts
"Save emergency numbers on your phone, and also write them down on a piece of paper you can carry with you," says Soh. He also says to consider letting supportive friends or family know you are attending Pride, particularly if traveling to a different city.
Know Your Rights!
When you are lawfully present in any public space, you have the right to photograph anything in plain view, including federal buildings and the police.
If you happen to find yourself in a run-in with the police, write down everything you remember, including the officers' badge and patrol car numbers and the agency they work for. And if possible, get contact information for witnesses. Download the ACLU's Know Your Protest and Demonstration Rights wallet card here.
Pride started as a riot, and the LGBTQ+ community must remember that as we march through the streets. Sure, have fun during Pride, but also remember why Pride started - and why it must continue.
"It absolutely sucks that any of this is needed, but you'll have more fun if you feel confident that if shit hits the fan, you know how to stay safe and stay that way," says Perlman.
Ryn Pfeuffer is a versatile print and digital writer specializing in sex, lifestyle, and relationship topics. Over the past two decades, her work has appeared in more than 100 media outlets including Marie Claire, Playboy, Refinery29, The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, WIRED, and Thrillist.
She adopted a pseudonym and was AVN’s (Adult Video Network) first female porn reviewer – while penning children’s books at the same time. More recently, she is the author of 101 Ways to Rock Online Dating (2019). She lives in Seattle with her rescue dog, Mimi. You can find her on Twitter @rynpfeuffer or IG @ryn_says