You Don't Have to be Out to Celebrate Pride Month

Pride Month is a time of visibility, celebration, and love. For the month of June, we see more people sharing their stories about coming out, about finding a community that embraces who they are, and the love they feel for themselves when they get to live authentically. We see rainbows, marches, confetti, and excitement. Pride Month is something to be excited about...but it can be hard when you're not out. When you're not out, Pride Month can feel like a reminder of everything you're missing out on. It can be hard to see everyone celebrating and know that you can't join in without coming out first. It can feel like a month of sadness, feeling left out and alone. As badly as someone who isn't out might want to celebrate, sometimes it doesn't feel safe.

Why might coming out be hard?

It feels like a no-brainer to say that coming out to the people is risky, even when a person knows there's love and acceptance on the other side. It's not as simple as announcing it on social media with a surprise picture of you and your partner. There are many moving parts, many lines of a story that the rest of the public doesn't see. If you're not out to your family and friends, we hope you hear us when we say this: you don't have to come out if you're not ready. Here's a helpful video called, "You Don't Have to Come Out" that you might find helpful if you're struggling with Pride Month this year that might also flesh out a few more of the feelings.

What are some of the parts the rest of the world might not see? Maybe they live in a small town where everyone knows each other, and there's a high likelihood of being ostracized. Maybe they work in a conservative community and they fear for their safety. Maybe there are people who will outright jeer or show disgust for who they are if they were to be open. There's a lot of loss, and fear of loss, when coming out.

Imagine being gay teenager (he/him) living with a family that stresses hypermasculine norms. His life might be curated on the image of him being a heterosexual boy with friends who know nothing of his internal experience. He may be left to count down the days until his 18th birthday in silence. Then maybe, maybe he'll be able to support himself and feel free enough to be out. Everything he has is dependent on familial support. It's an unimaginably difficult position to be in.

Take some communities of color where culturally, family is the primary source of support (emotional, financial, social, etc.) even when you're an adult. A person might have deep investment in their family and love them very much all while knowing there is a likelihood they won't accept them if they come out. There's a huge risk of losing all of the support they receive from their family. It might be easy for some of us raised with Western values to say, "Well, screw them!" If that's what comes to mind as a reaction, remember that your lived experience is different from theirs (and thus values will be different).

How does someone celebrate Pride when they're not out?

This is the golden question, isn't it? And the less shiny answer depends.

It might look like staying home and watching pride parades on TV. It might look like listening to music that makes you feel good, reading books with queer protagonists, or watching movies with happy endings. Maybe it means buying that one pride-themed drink at the local shop that is an open ally. Maybe it looks like attending a pride march but not waving any flags or holding any signs. Maybe it looks like talking to people who are out and getting affirming support from them.

These examples are not the only ways that you can celebrate Pride Month in ways that feel safe. You determine what feels safe. And if it's a matter of, "What does safety feel like?" or, "I don't know how to celebrate in ways that feel good for me," there are a few things you can do to seek out some answers.

  1. Explore the community. If you feel comfortable using your own electronic devices and browsers to connect and explore with the LGBTQIA community, whether they're websites like TrevorSpace (a website for queer folx ages 13-24 to find affirming friends internationally), QChat (an online space for queer teens to connect and find support), or Give Us the Floor (an LGBTQIA+ online support group), you can talk to others who have similar experiences and even get support/guidance.

  2. Find an affirming therapist. Many therapists, like those at Cultured Space, exist to provide safe, affirming care to help someone explore their identity. Working with a therapist will help the two of you problem-solve and come up with creative solutions for how you want to celebrate and express yourself in ways that feel good and safe.

  3. Reach out to an LGBTQIA+ organization. These organizations can help connect you with resources as you navigate your life. Big names like The Trevor Project or Youth Pride Association (YPA) are out there! And if you're local to the New York State community, there's The Center, New Alternatives, and the Brooklyn Community Pride Center!

We hope that regardless of what Pride Month brings you, you are able to experience support, love, and affirmation. If you're looking for immediate support, schedule an appointment with one of our clinicians today and we'll be happy to start this journey with you. When you're ready, we're here for you.