June is here, and Gay Pride is at our doorstep once again. Since I am unemplo—a young professional weighing his options—this to me means a chance to have that weekend-long bender I’ve been waiting for.
Here in Chicago, this means flooding the streets of Boystown—the first government-designated gayborhood in the United States, which attracts over 1 million people for its annual Pride Parade. There is a certain etiquette that goes into making Pride an enjoyable experience, not only for yourself, but also for those around you. Surviving Gay Pride is just as much an art as it is a science, so don’t make the mistake of taking my advice lightly. As a seasoned veteran of Pride, here are my two cents on the subject.
When at the bars:
Cash is king. The fastest, most efficient way to pay is always cash during Pride. You should always carry a bit of cash anyway. I will tell you now, every bar I go to during Pride has ATMs that always run out of cash. Get cash when you are out and about, in advance. If you never carry cash, open a tab. Do NOT close your card out after every purchase. This would be annoying any day, but during Pride this is especially irritating, and slows the process down. If you use a card, keep it open till you are ready to leave.
Patience is a virtue. For those in the community, Pride is a time when our extended gay family comes out to the bars. This means they know nothing about bar etiquette. The amateur drinker if you will. Being irritable, and—most importantly—vocal, because you have to wait a little while for your drink isn’t going to speed the process up any, so chill and just enjoy the hot guys rubbing up against you on all sides in whatever overcrowded bar you’re in.
One of the first things we were all taught in kindergarten was to stand in a single file line. It is amazing to me that has been lost over the years. Typical bartending style is to wait on anyone who is in front of the bar, whether it is at the server station or just to the left or the right. Pride is a time when lining up in the server station will guarantee you don’t get overlooked. Bartenders are extremely busy during this time. We all overhear guys say, “Oh, I am not a cute, young twink. He won’t wait on me.” That is the most grating thing to hear, as someone who is actually following the rules of etiquette and common sense. YOU are the person who sees a line at the server station and refuses to stand in it. Don’t expect a bartender, who is busting their ass banging out the 50+ drink orders in front of them to stop and walk over to you to get you a glass of water. Get in the damn line.
Girls, we love having you in gay bars, even when it is super crowded and we’re trying to get laid. Just one rule. No shrieking! This is Gay Pride, not a bachelorette party. And nothing makes a gay man’s testicles retract back into their body like drunk girls screaming. That being said…
White, cis, gay males, remember that the Pride isn’t just about you. At the end of the day, the LGBTQIA+ community is just a subsect of our society, made up of dozens more within itself. Being a white, cisgender, gay man affords me certain opportunities that others in our community are not. I have less to worry about as far as retaining employment, earning a living wage, finding non-discriminatory housing, avoiding violence and the criminal justice system compared to others who are less privileged. While my rights, and yours, are limited, others in the community are homeless because of transphobia, dying in the streets from police brutality, and being deported and separated from their loved ones because our president is a human Monopoly game-piece. Pride is counter-narrative to the conservative, rigidly constructed movement, that fights to deny rights to anyone. Acknowledge that our brothers and sisters lead vastly different lives than we do, and keep xenophobia out of pride, and out yo mouth.
When at the Parade:
Flirt to your heart’s content. Better yet, flirt with a drag queen, because I guarantee you it will be one of the best experiences of your entire life. I recommend starting a conversation with one by complimenting her look. What happens next will not be boring, and you will have an awesome story to tell.
Stock up on all the complimentary supplies you can get your hands on. Why not? They’re free! And a gay man can never have enough personal lubricant.
Grindr a new friend. Pro-tip: Make friends with the guys who live on the parade route so you get invited to good parties and avoid the long lines at bars previously discussed. You might also find yourself a great place to day-drink in an air-conditioned unit overlooking the parade. You can look down on all the #Peasants and survey the room for a guy to hook up with when the sun sets.
Under no circumstances are you to wear flip-flops. I won’t even entertain the idea that some people can get away with it. You will be on your feet all day, and most likely will lose one if not both in the crowds. There’s also a very good chance of contracting foot herpes.
Work a look. Straight girls, you best come correct that there will be a ton of semi-drunk professional stylists walking around and they will want to read you if you come lookin’ half-assed. Boys, you’ll be fine, as long as you’re hot. And if you are, you should take your shirt off. I don’t care if you’re straight, if being an objectified piece of beef is the one thing you do for your gay neighbors all year, that is enough.
Leave your dramatic ass at home. No explanation needed. No one wants to put up with your shit. Come happy or don’t come at all.
Don’t get roofied. Cuz that shit happens. I was sexually assaulted in college at a party, and have had friends end up in the same boat. The responsibility to feel safe and secure in your own body (and not to be raped) shouldn’t be placed on the individual themselves, but unfortunately, it is. Celebrate, but do so with others who you trust and be accountable to one another.
Finally, a last word to the straights. Remember, this day is all about the LGBTQIA+ community, and the “A” doesn’t stand for Allies. It’s like you’re a Sox fan at Wrigley Field. You need to just go along with what’s happening. Even if you don’t like it or get uncomfortable, take a deep breath and try to fit in, or leave, but we hope you don’t because we do appreciate your support. Every other day of the year is Straight Pride Day, and today, you play by our rules. If we were ashamed of our behavior, we wouldn’t be out in public like this in the first place.