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Gay pride celebrations happen worldwide and year-round, featuring parades, parties, political gatherings, community rallies and memorials for those who have made sacrifices for the gay rights movement. No two pride celebrations are the same, but all make a great excuse to travel. With Gay Pride season in full swing, TPG Contributor Nicholas du Pont shares some of his thoughts on what to consider ahead of time and what to expect when attending your first Pride. (Photos by the author, unless otherwise specified.)
Writer’s note: I’d be remiss if I allowed this piece to go to press without mentioning the attack on the Pride parade in Jerusalem yesterday — so please see the bottom of this post for my thoughts on the incident, and my words of encouragement for you to go ahead and attend a Pride festival of your own choosing, with your head held high.
The spirit and energy that Pride brings to any city is unlike anything else. Entire streets — neighborhoods even — adorned with rainbow flags, people young and old, of all backgrounds and sexual preferences, celebrating diversity. In recent years, municipalities such as New York, Tel Aviv and Madrid have begun to spend more and more on these annual celebrations — and they’re not to be missed! Before you go, however, here are a few things to consider:
1. Pick the Right Pride for You — “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all” applies to a lot of things in life, but definitely not Gay Pride celebrations — so make sure you pick the right one for you so that you’ll have the best experience. For example, San Francisco Pride is great for IT folks, techies and those who like to network; Apple, Google and pretty much every other IT company you can think of will be out in full force there with their CEOs marching alongside.
New York has hundreds of interest groups marching and can be either solidly issue-based or more like a big circuit party, depending on the angle from which you choose to hit it. Sydney Pride, better known as Mardi Gras, is a two-week long event best suited to those who have enough stamina to survive the ordeal. Tel Aviv’s events are largely centered around Hilton Beach (set beside the Category 8 Hilton Tel Aviv), and in Copenhagen, it’s an all-inclusive experience where pretty much anyone can find and join a parade float that represents them. Start with a city you’d like to visit, then research the vibe and events of its Pride.
2. Pack Accordingly – Remember that Pride, regardless of where you go, is a celebration of who people truly are, not who society wants them to be or who others expect them to be. So toss any notions of what you think is expected of you out the door when you pack. Whatever you love to wear is what you should pack. Period.
3. Detox Before you Retox – Pride is a marathon, not a sprint. The one thing they all have in common is endless parties and frivolity. In addition to the clothes you love, pack a spare liver. Make sure you pack vitamins and ibuprofen or your headache-chaser of choice. Also, take it easy the week before and hydrate well.
4. Location, Location, Location! – Use that stash of points to redeem for a centrally located hotel. When it comes to huge Pride celebrations, like those in Madrid, New York and Sydney, being in the wrong area of town can have a huge impact on your experience. Parades, street parties and other events often result in street closures and public transportation deviations, so even just getting around your own area of town can be tough. Being far from the center of things will do you no favors. It’s worth every penny to be in the heart of it all and not have to worry about missing out because you’re spending too much time underground on the subway.
5. Book Ahead of Time – Make your Pride plans well in advance. Earmark where you want to go and keep your eyes out for good deals. There are no blackout dates around Prides, but mileage seat availability will go pretty quickly during these times — as will rooms in the most ideal properties. Booking flights and hotels early will help you avoid stress later on.
6. Go with Friends – No matter where you go for Pride, you’ll have more fun if you don’t go alone. The atmosphere at any Pride is jovial and you’re bound to meet new people, but going with a friend never hurts. In fact, it makes the experience better because you have someone to share it with and you won’t feel quite as lonely as you pass couples embracing in the streets.
7. Do Your Homework – Spend some time researching the Pride you plan to attend and its associated events. In many cities, you can buy passes that will not only get you into multiple events but also offer admission at a steep discount compared with door prices. The parties you’re most looking forward to may sell out, so be sure to create a game plan/schedule for yourself and make any possible pass/ticket purchases ahead of time.
8. Tailor Your Expectations – Pride is about leaving all your prejudices and preconceived notions at the door, so do just that. As different as every city’s Pride is bound to be, they all celebrate diversity. So in that spirit, allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised by whatever it is that you’ve jumped into.
9. Hold Your Head High — Although yesterday’s attack at Jerusalem Pride was carried out by an individual who was acting of his own accord, he’s not alone in harboring such vitriolic feelings towards the LGBT community. Personally, I think this only highlights the importance of Pride celebrations, however, since they promote peace, understanding and inclusion. My heart goes out to the victims and their families, and I applaud the thousands of people who kept marching even after the attack. They wouldn’t allow anything to (literally) rain on their parade. And that’s what Pride is all about: the inspiration to keep on marching in the face of adversity, with your head held high, in the hope that maybe one day that adversity will vanish and give way to understanding and equality for all.
Please have yourself a safe and happy Pride!