Hooray! It’s Pride Month! The time of year when my city gets decked out in rainbows, and the memes pages of the internet are full of people like me! Woo! Pride weekend always seems to coincide with my being at a dance event, and over the last few years I’ve seen organizers make a wide range of choices about what to do with that information – including ignoring it entirely.
If you are a LGBTQIA social dance organizer, then by all means organize your dance your way with regards to Pride. But if you are a cis, straight organizer and your dance falls over Pride weekend, here are some things to think about before you pull out the rainbows and decide you want to run a pride dance:
First: If you want to have a designated “Pride dance” then you MUST involve diverse LGBTQIA organizers and you MUST pay them for their time and you MUST listen to what they have to say. Otherwise stick to acknowledging Pride within the boundaries of your event, without calling it a Pride event.
Second: don’t assume there’s only one Pride event in your city when you’re scheduling. A LOT of queer and trans people have been frustrated by corporate sponsorship of Pride, by pinkwashing, by how events are policed, by the presentation of only a very narrow vision of queerness, by the appropriation of Pride as a party for straight people. As a result, there are now a large number of alt prides/community prides, or other Pride events that you should be on the look out for too.
Third: “celebrating” Pride at your dance will not fool ANYONE if you’re not already running an inclusive scene already.
- Do you have LGBTQIA leadership?
- Do you hire LGBTQIA teachers and DJs?
- Do you have a gender-neutral bathroom?
- Do you have an inclusivity statement on your website or facebook page?
- Do people of all genders regularly ask each other to dance in multiple roles?
- Do you actively seek to recruit dancers from LGBTQIA populations? Especially LGBTQIA POCs?
- Do you know what the above acronym means and why it’s important?
- Do you know about the LGBTQIA history and culture of your dance form?
- Do you have a transparent and active approach to inclusive space-making?
- Do your instructors divide the room into “men” and “women”?
- Do you have separate door prices based on role or gender?
- Does your advertising literature feature only heterosexual couples?
- Do men do the majority of asking people to dance?
- Do you dismiss the concerns of LGBTQIA attendees?
- Are some LGBTQIA people more welcome in your scene than others?
If you have thought about these things already and it’s genuinely important to you to acknowledge Pride… personally, I’m all for it. I really do appreciate when scenes show that they’ve realized their LGBTQIA attendees are spending time with them on a politically and historically important day. I like it when my identity, and queer liberation, is celebrated within my community. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for things you can do to acknowledge Pride as an ally organizer:
- Frame your intentions in the event description: we know we’re on the same day as Pride, so we’re running a Pride Dance with the leadership of… / and while we’re not running a Pride dance, we do want to welcome and celebrate any members of the LGBTQIA community who want to come out and dance with us.
- Make a special effort to hire LGBTQIA teachers and DJs. Maybe bring someone in from out of town. Pay them. Invite them to play some songs that reflect that it’s Pride. A well-meaning ally is not an LGBTQIA person.
- Give money from the event to an LGBTQIA charity or cause.
- Have a snowball or jam for your LGBTQIA attendees.*
- Put up articles, songs, or videos about LGBTQIA history within your dance form.
- Update your information and policies to make sure that they’re sexuality and gender-inclusive. Maybe pay an LGBTQIA person to look things over with you… I can be hired to do just that – get in touch.
- Model the behavior you want to see at your event: offer your pronouns as you introduce yourself, ask someone of your gender to dance, ask which role someone prefers. Teach your attendees to do the same.
- DON’T monetize Pride and feed that money back into your own organization if you’re not an actively LGBTQIA-led scene.
You don’t have to do ALL of these things, but if you are looking at all of them and thinking that they all sound like a lot of change and effort, then maybe you don’t care as much about Pride as you want people to think you do. At the end of the day, Pride should be a chance to celebrate the values and community that you already have, not a one-day vacation into rainbow-feel-good-land because you like our colour palette. There are a lot of really lovely, inclusive scenes out there being run by allies with whom I’d be happy to share my Pride day. I hope other scenes use Pride as an invitation to do better now, and in the future.
* Make sure you’re really clear about the place of allies in any spotlighting activity. I still cringe about the song explicitly “for queer attendees” that was completely DOMINATED by a straight, cis “ally” who wanted to showcase himself. On the other hand, maybe someone identifies as LGBTQIA and hasn’t told you yet. Use your good judgement, or ask someone to make that call if you can’t.