People Are Sharing Their First LGBTQ+ Pride Experiences, And It's Proof That Pride Needs To Be Celebrated All Year Round

·14 min read

The end of June is approaching, and with that, the end of another Pride month is upon us. And during a time when our own Supreme Court is threatening our rights, it's vital to not forget the resilience of our community and the memories that bring us joy.

Storyful / Via giphy.com

That's why I asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell me the stories of their first Pride parade experiences. And for real, these memories are just what I needed to keep me going:

1."My first Pride was in 2011, before I knew and accepted that I was queer. It was the New York City Pride parade, and it was a blast. I remember sweating my tits off, my pasty skin getting so sunburnt, and wanting to weep with joy because to me, this was it."

nyc pride parade
Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

2."I wore rainbow thigh-high socks with a matching sweater, and got told by everyone I encountered that I looked super adorable and festive! Then I got too anxious to actually talk to anyone or do anything — it was still a pretty positive experience though!"

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3."My friends and I spent the day before tie-dyeing white clothes since we couldn’t afford, or even find, Pride clothing. We were using food coloring dyes, and I read online that if you mixed it with vinegar, the color would be more vibrant. However, the next day, we realized they didn’t dry and still smelled heavily of vinegar...but we didn’t have anything else to wear. So, we wore those vinegar food-coloring-dyed clothes in the parade. At the end of the day, we were like, 'Oh hey, this doesn’t really smell like vinegar anymore!' Turned out it had all just seeped into our skin. So our clothes were fine, but our bodies smelled like pickles."

people holding hands wearing tie dye shirts
Ehstock / Getty Images/iStockphoto

4."The night before the Pride parade, this guy I knew came up to me and said he was supposed to drive one of the parade cars, but couldn't do it. He asked me if I'd like to fill in. I did! Afterwards, he talked to the parade organizers because he knew I did stand-up, so I got to do 15 minutes on the main stage, too."

margaret cho in a car at sfs pride
David Paul Morris / Getty Images

5."This year was my first Pride experience, and I actually got to march in the parade because I was a part of my school's Gay Straight Alliance Club. Even though I get really bad anxiety in crowds, I actually had so much fun. My friends and I kept waving our flags around while screaming 'SLAYYYYYYY!' After the parade, my best friend and I went to the Pride festival. We held hands as we listened to The Neighbourhood with shared headphones, and checked out the booths. We ended up coming across a homophobe protesting the event. Us and about 50 other people started taking pictures with this dude, saying stuff like, 'Can't wait to party with the other gays in hell!' He ended up leaving.

people holding a protest sign against anti-gay behavior at pride

"He revealed that he drove 60 miles to get to the festival and was going to drive 60 miles back, which I thought was really funny, especially with these astronomical gas prices."

katnisseverdeen12345

Isabel Infantes / Getty Images

6."My first Pride event was Atlanta Pride, when I was a sophomore in college living in South Carolina, just starting to figure out and accept my sexuality. It was absolutely magical. It was the first time in my life I had seen so many queer people be loved, affirmed, and celebrated before. I cried all day. Maybe I should be slightly embarrassed that people kept coming up to me and asking me if I was okay, but I'm not embarrassed at all. That first Pride is still one of my favorite experiences. It allowed me to give myself permission to be the real authentic me."

walking in the pride parade with flag
Mixmike / Getty Images

7."I went with my parents and my brother to my first Pride in London when I was 18 years old. All across the city, streets were packed with people celebrating! It was really special since I'd recently came out earlier that year, and my brother is also queer. We're very lucky to have such amazing, supportive parents, and being able to celebrate with them was incredible...even though my dad may have drank a few too many shots of tequila."

people holding hands in their underwear during london pride
Steve Eason / Getty Images

8."I was 25 years old and had just come out publicly as trans about six months earlier. I hadn't attended Pride before because I felt like it was only for queer people, and I hadn't realized I was trans until recently. I attended with my then-crush and my friends, one of whom was waving a giant Pride flag in front of us. It was exhilarating. The following year, I went shirtless in celebration of my relationship with my body and understanding that I don't need to conform to anyone's status to be valid as me."

trans athlete with the trans flag
Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

9."My first Pride experience happened at my high school several years ago. It was organized by our principal with a fellow student. In the days leading up to the event, queer students at my school faced opposition, even violence, from other students, and in one case, from a parent. I was out to some without being out to everyone who knew me. I strategically walked in the shadow of two much taller friends and kept my head down to avoid a camera at one point, while holding hands with one of my closest friends, an out lesbian. The Pride march happened on the last day of classes, and when students returned the next year, the queer students were much closer and a much more interconnected group than before. It was a truly affirming experience, and one that created a community for students in the years that followed.

students holding a rainbow poster with love written on it

"My way of coming out was turning down an 'ally' sticker that was offered to me. I kept telling people who asked, 'Oops, it must have fallen off.'"

area51official

Fg Trade / Getty Images

10."My journey to Pride has been a long one, since I grew up in a rather conservative household and did not develop feelings of attraction toward women until my early 20s. So, I will never forget my first Pride. I was taking a semester abroad in 2015 in Shanghai and got recruited for Shanghai Pride by a classmate. Over the course of several months, I participated in meetings with some of the bravest people I ever got to know — living in a country where speaking your mind freely can be extremely dangerous, these people were unapologetically themselves. I am so proud that I was a part of creating these safe spaces, especially since the organization behind the event is on hiatus due to the rising danger of being out and proud in Shanghai, even in 2022."

someone holding pride flag for shanghai pride
Str / AFP via Getty Images

11."I was lucky enough to be in the parade during my first Pride. It was euphoric. Everyone was so supportive and so happy — you could literally feel the love in the air. Texas can suck, but Austin knows how to do some things very, very well. Pride is one of them. I think the experience was instrumental in my own change from staying pretty quiet about my sexuality to fully embracing it."

mkatherinekelly

12."It was in Hong Kong in 2016, the first ever Pride parade in the city. It was a Saturday, but we had to be in the office, and when my colleague and I went out for a cigarette, we heard music and cheering and figured it was the parade coming. We waited for a while to have a better look, and as they were passing by, we waved at them and shouted, 'Equal rights!' They waved back and sent air kisses. It was pretty cool."

hong kong pride
South China Morning Post / South China Morning Post via Getty Images

13."I used to only know a handful of other gay men. Then a friend took me to my first Pride fest — I was overwhelmed in the best possible way. There I was, surrounded by thousands of people like me. I’m not sure what exactly I expected, but I was struck by how normalized celebrating queerness was. There were men and women of all ages, even children with their parents. They were all just walking around, eating, shopping, talking, and dancing. And for the first time, I felt normal myself."

aditson

14."Prides in Ukraine are still about fighting for rights, and not quite a celebration yet. Unfortunately, there are a lot of organizations and churches in the country that terrorize our LGBTQ+ people, so the first big Pride happened only a few years ago, and it was all behind walls that the police built in the centre of Kyiv. It was a short marching route, about one mile, and there were more cops than us. Still, it was amazing! Even though we were behind metal walls with a lot of aggressive people shouting from behind those walls, we were a community. We were a power to be reckoned with, and we felt seen. Even though we didn't have moving platforms or eccentric clothing, we celebrated.

holding ukraine flag during nyc pride

"If you are in a place, where it's still dangerous to be yourself, remember that baby steps are still steps forward — so just keep walking."

—Anonymous, 36, Ukraine

Noam Galai / Getty Images

15."I'm an ally. One day, my now-husband and I went for a random day trip to Brighton. As the train pulled up to the station, it was filled with colors, music, and happiness — we realized our trip happened to coincide with Pride, and it'd be my first ever. We enjoyed the parade, then found ourselves outside a local pub with a fantastic family of two moms who were co-parenting with their gay friend and their daughter. We danced the night away together.

"My husband and I have had many lovely days together since, but this still stands out as the most wholesome fun we have had."

—Anonymous, 32, United Kingdom

16."I went to my first Pride on my own after hitchhiking 500 kilometers to Montréal. Back then, I didn't have the extended chosen family that I now have. Everything was still so new! I remember not knowing all the different Pride flags or understanding everything going on, but I was exalted by the love surrounding me. Now, I show up to Pride with friends, lovers, and even ex-lovers. We hold our protest signs that we make together during our yearly pre-Pride brunch.

drag queens during montreal pride

"Oh, how times have changed!"

—Anonymous, 30, Québec

Nurphoto / Corbis via Getty Images

17."I am a bi woman, and I marched in the Chicago Pride parade in 2019. What an amazing experience! I brought my son and his friends, as well as my husband and my friend, with me. It was 90 degrees that day, so it was super, super warm and sweaty. But what I remember most was the shear love that I felt. People were literally hanging out of windows to watch and cheer us all on. People watching the parade were super excited if you walked over and hugged or high-fived them. The funniest moment was on the steps of a church there was a pastor telling us to repent our sins. On the count of three, everyone who marched by them said, We love you anyways!'

people in window during chicago pride

"Honestly, the love and joy I feel at every Pride event now is heartwarming. Everyone is complimenting each other, hugging strangers, and just so happy to be there."

—Anonymous, 54, Illinois

Kamil Krzaczynski / AFP via Getty Images

18."I grew up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, though actually volunteered during my first Pride when I was 16 years old. I knew I would see things I probably wouldn't agree with, but that didn't bother me. What I was expecting was being moved by the love everyone else had for each other during the parade. As soon as I got there, and before I'd even interacted with anyone, I could feel the wave of love and acceptance. It was so cool to witness. Other than having a trash bag explode on me, since I was on trash duty most if the day, it was an awesome experience.

"God said, 'Love thy neighbor,' and I really felt that energy there."

—Anonymous, 19, Idaho

19."My first Pride event was in 1998, in El Paso, Texas. Pride was not a big thing back then, so it was a very small event. I had just graduated high school, and enlisted in the US Navy earlier that day. Some of my friends were concerned since it was still the era of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' I was as well, but I just reassured them that I would be okay. When we arrived at the Pride event that afternoon, it was being held outside in a large parking lot area downtown. I noticed it was being held across the street from the building I had spent most of the day enlisting. I laughed at the irony of this, and had a great time.

el paso, texas with the pride flag overlayed in the background

"Later in the day, the event moved over to the few bars and clubs in the city — we went to the only 18+ club, and it's where mostly everyone went afterwards. Slowly, other people that I knew started to arrive at the club. As I told more of my friends I'd be leaving soon for the military, some were shocked, others were scared, and a few were proud.

"I'm just thankful I got to experience my first Pride back then and be able to dance the night away with some of the closes friends I have ever had to this day."

—Anonymous, 43, Virginia

Denistangneyjr / Getty Images

20."I didn't realize I was queer until my sister came out and thanked me for making it easier for her by 'always being so open and honest about my sexuality.' That year was our first Pride event we went to intentionally, and I had no idea the things I was missing out on by not being an active part of my community. Now, along with always fighting for our rights, Pride is an annual celebration we share with our gigantic family — everyone loves it!"

two people pose for a picture during pride parade

—Earl, 25, Texas

Fg Trade / Getty Images

21."I have always been bi, but both my presentation and relationship are very 'straight-passing,' so for a long time, I questioned my validity and right to belong in the LGBTQ+ community. This year, I finally started to accept myself. I went to Pride by myself since I don't have any close friends in my area. I put on a Pride shirt and did my eye makeup in the bisexual Pride flag colors. I was really, really nervous because I had never displayed my sexuality in public before. However, seeing the parade and the joy from the community was a really moving experience for me. Until that moment, I don't think I fully realized that I am not alone in this and that there is a place for that little girl at Catholic sleep-away camp who was terrified by the feelings she had for her female friend. By the end of the parade, I bought my first bi Pride flag. I carried it all the way home."

person holding bi flag while standing on the ledge of an overpass

—Anonymous, 24, Washington, D.C.

Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty Images

What was your first Pride experience like? Let me know in the comments.

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

And if you're looking for more ways to get involved with the queer community, check out all of BuzzFeed's posts celebrating Pride 2022!

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And My Fake Boyfriend, a new LGBTQ+ rom com from BuzzFeed Studios starring Keiynan Lonsdale, Dylan Sprouse, and Sarah Hyland, is now streaming in the US — perfect for the end of Pride month! Sign up for Prime Video now to watch.

promo for "my fake boyfriend"
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