Counsellor Shannon on what to expect at your first Pride

With Pride festivals kicking off across Canada, we sat down with Kids Help Phone Counsellor Shannon to talk about what it’s like for a young person to attend their first Pride festival, what issues they face and the types of conversations they should have with friends, family and allies.

What’s the question you’re asked the most by young people about attending their first Pride festival?

The most common question I’m asked is, “What if somebody who doesn’t know I’m LGBTQ sees me?”

One of the first things I ask is what it might mean to them if someone who doesn’t already know in their life found out.

A really good way for young people to answer this is by asking themselves:

  • •    Is this a good time to come out?
  • •    Would I tell the person I’m LGBTQ if I wasn’t attending Pride?
  • •    Why haven’t I told that person yet?
  • •    How will that person react?

Have you had a young person ask you what to do if they’re not out yet, but they want to attend Pride?

Yes. I’ve found that if someone hasn’t come out yet, there are often underlying motivations — they may not feel they’re ready or they may be afraid of the reactions of others.

Young people don’t need to be told “yes” or “no” to attending Pride — more often than not, as they talk it out, they find the answer that feels right from within themselves.

The best thing a young person can do is take some time to talk to a safe friend or family member or a counsellor at Kids Help Phone — someone they can really open up to.

What issues do you explore in a counselling session with young people about LGBTQ dating?

When it comes to dating, LGBTQ-identified young people face many of the same issues as heterosexual young people. Some of the additional problems that we explore, especially around Pride are:

  • •    If you haven’t come out and your partner has, what are your next steps in terms of being seen publicly at Pride? Would you be OK if people you knew saw you?
  • •    If you have come out and your partner hasn’t, what are your next steps in terms of being affectionate in public? Would you be OK to hide your relationship?

Because each person and each relationship is so different, there is no one answer to these questions — it’s very important that young people and their partners have an open dialogue and really try to understand each other’s feelings as best they can.

What should a young person do if they encounter a group of protesters at Pride?

The first thing to remember is that the people around you will be overwhelmingly supportive of your sexuality, and you as a person. If you do encounter protesters, and they are harassing you:

  • •    make it known that you are being harassed. There will be other people around you who will be able to support you.
  • •    ignore them directly
  • •    if necessary, approach the police

What should a young person do if their family doesn’t accept that they are LGBTQ, but they still want to attend Pride?

What a young person should do is highly dependent on each person’s circumstances. Answering these questions may help:

  • •    How supportive or unsupportive is the environment at home?
  • •    Would one parent be OK with their sexuality and the other not? 
  • •    Is this a good time? Have a think about your living arrangements, how much money you have and how many family members, immediate and extended, are supportive.

How does a young person react to someone trying to hit on them?

Consent is the most important thing. They should constantly ask themselves, “Do I want this?” Consent is critical, and it’s OK to answer, “No, thank you.”

And just because they’re feeling good about the situation, and given their consent earlier in the day, they should know they can still say “no” at any time. Saying “yes” once doesn’t mean you’ve said “yes” forever.

Why is it important for LGBTQ youth to attend their first Pride?

Attending your first Pride is about just that — having pride! It’s about being proud of who you are, and your sexuality. But remember — do it on your terms!

If you would like to know more about this topic, feel free to speak or chat with a counsellor.