What to Expect at Your First Gay Pride Event

Gay Pride for Beginners

A float in Chicago's Pride Parade
Bruce Leighty / Getty Images

If you’ve never been to a gay pride event, you may be anxious about what to expect. Here are some tips for attending for the first time.

Gay Prides come in all different sizes. If you live in Boise, there might be 500 people at your gay pride event. If you live in Boston, the number could be closer to 500,000. Bigger is not necessarily better, and the smaller the community, the more likely your attendance at pride will have an impact.

Your gay pride may involve a parade or march with celebrity speakers and performers or it may just be a community gathering, like a picnic or softball game. Most medium to large cities have a gay pride celebration of some sort.

Gay Pride Parade: What to Expect

A parade is a parade. Think of the Rose Parade or Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC. People come out to celebrate in elaborate costumes riding on floats or marching with a band. Gay pride is similar. Expect to see people decked out in all kinds of wild costumes.

You may have gay clowns, gay drag queens, and gay marching bands. You may see your 7th grade English teacher decked out in a full leather outfit complete with a whip or your chiropractor zooming by with the Dykes on Bikes. You may see your aunt march by in the lesbian gardeners' posse. Some will be tame, others will be wild. Enjoy them all!

No two parades are the same, but usually, the first contingent is either Dykes on Bikes, a group of lesbians driving motorcycles, or People with AIDS. Any number of groups can participate in gay pride.

You may see local businesses, gay-friendly politicians and church groups singing hymns. Expect to see go-go dancers and techno music from the gay bars and a rowdy youth contingent. Perhaps the most moving group for gays and lesbians each year is the Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians and Gays contingent. (PFLAG)

Because so many parents do not accept their children’s sexual orientation, seeing a group of loving and supportive parents with signs that read, “You’ll always have a home at PFLAG” or “PFLAG loves You!” can make even the most stone butch lesbian cry.

Who Will See Me?

If you are just coming out of the closet, you may fear that someone you know may see you and recognize you. This may happen, but here are some things to keep in mind. First, if they see you, they are there too. Most gay and gay-friendly people will not out you to others without your permission.

Second, many people attend gay pride events, gay and straight. Just because you are at a gay pride event, does not speak definitively to your sexual orientation. You can have an answer prepared, such as ‘I’m here to support my gay friend,” or “I’m writing a paper on gay marriage for English class.” Chances are you won’t need to use your excuse.

Attending a Gay Pride Event

You can go to gay pride by yourself, or you can go with friends. If you go alone, chances are you’ll meet a new friend or two. People are usually pretty upbeat and friendly. Gay pride can also be a hook-up time, so if you’re looking for a new girlfriend, you just might get lucky.

If you feel too shy to just up and go by yourself, hook up with one of the many groups that are sure to be in attendance. Is the gay two-step group holding dance lessons? You can meet up with a gay youth group or lesbian softball team.


Some gay pride events attract protestors, people who think being gay is wrong or a sin. Some gay and lesbian supporters like to get into debates or screaming matches with protestors. My advice is to just ignore the protestors and have a good time.

What’s the Point of Gay Pride?

Gay pride can mean different things to different people. For some, attending gay pride is a celebration of who they are and who they love. For others, gay pride is just a big party, a place to have fun. Especially now, as our country is fighting many political battles attempting to deny our basic rights, gay pride can be a political organizing tool. It can be a place to educate and organize in the struggle for equal rights and freedom. After all, the first gay pride was a protest march.

What to Bring to Gay Pride

  • Sunscreen
  • Plenty of Water
  • Gay-positive Sign
  • Gay-positive T-shirt
  • Rainbow Flag
  • A big smile and lots of attitude
  • Some cash for that rainbow bracelet you just can’t be without

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