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The back of a person with long red hair, among a collage of Pride imagery - including rainbow flags and people in love.

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The back of a person with long red hair, among a collage of Pride imagery - including rainbow flags and people kissing.

What kind of queer person doesn’t like Pride month?

For most people Pride month is a place of joy and celebration, a place to revel in the complexity of the queer identity. But for me? It's a sensory nightmare.

  • What kind of queer person doesn’t like Pride month?
    Beth Awatere
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  • I dread Pride month.

    Believe me, I tried to love it. I wanted so desperately to love it. My understanding of the queer identity in Aotearoa was that being queer means being loud. It means being colourful and vivacious, existing unapologetically in any space with a Pride flag.

    My first experience of Pride month was last year. Before that I was always too busy working or travelling to be present in any meaningful way during February. I also think on a subconscious level I was terrified I would show up and hate it. Because what kind of queer person doesn’t like Pride?

    Me. An autistic person, that's who.

    When I was filling out the form for a ticket to Big Gay Out (BGO), I remembered the question: ‘What are your access needs?’ And I appreciate it, but there needs to be more. Because if I’m honest, I don’t know what my access needs are, primarily for two reasons. 

  • Who holds responsibility for creating a safe space for people like us?

  • Firstly, there isn’t a set checklist for my access needs; they are dependent on what kind of space I’m entering into and will never be linear. A year ago, when I was filling out that form my mind went blank. Maybe I needed a quiet space? Somewhere to sit down? Neither of those things felt specific to my disability. Secondly, I had no idea what Big Gay Out was going to be like. I didn’t know the space or the facilitators. I wasn’t aware of what supports were already available or what was possible to ask for. I didn’t understand enough about the event to know what I would need on the day.

    Which begs the question: Who holds responsibility for creating a safe space for people like us? 

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect event hosts to be omnipotent. I know that to make a space accessible, the responsibility partly lies with me to communicate my needs. But for many of us, Pride month is our first experience of queer culture beyond the community we cultivate for ourselves. It’s hard to ask for what you need when you already feel out of depth and have no idea what to expect.

    So, I left the box blank. And I can still remember the panic and then the resulting shutdown when I arrived at Big Gay Out and realised I didn’t feel safe. I remember the heat pressing in and the sun burning down and sweaty bodies brushing past (ew, sweat). I reached that point in the shutdown when noise started to feel like a cascade of marble beads bouncing off my head (oddly specific I know).

  • ... for many of us, Pride month is our first experience of queer culture beyond the community we cultivate for ourselves. It’s hard to ask for what you need when you already feel out of depth and have no idea what to expect.

  • I still don’t know what needed to happen for that space to be safe. Maybe it won’t ever be and I’m still trying to reconcile if that is okay. I know that for so many of my friends, the event is a place of revelry and joy. I don’t know if there is a way to make events like BGO accessible to people who are autistic and neurodiverse.

    But I do know that for me, Pride is about community. It’s about that moment when you meet a new person and realise that they too are queer and disabled. That moment when the space shifts and you begin to feel safe - because this person you’ve just met gets it. They get that you experience pride in a multitude of different ways and not all of them are traditional. This is all I really want from Pride month; to feel connected to people who can share and understand my experiences.

  • ... for me, Pride is about community. It’s about that moment when you meet a new person and realise that they too are queer and disabled.

  • So what could access during Pride month look like? As an autistic person, I prefer an access framework rather than a checklist of access needs. An access framework is something that moves with me, evolving and developing as my needs evolve and change. A set of continuing actions which work to mitigate any barriers.

    For example, last year at BGO attendees got an email with a rough timeline of events and speakers. While it effectively checks the box of needing to know what's happening in advance, it didn't actually provide any support on the day. When I’m hot and overwhelmed, the last thing I want to do is pull my phone out to try to read through an email. Alternatively, an access framework might look like a series of text alerts throughout the day, with reminders for events, directions to quiet spaces or notifications of what support people look like and where to find them. This creates predictability and a recognisable pattern, whilst providing ongoing support. 

  • If I have to show up and advocate for myself then I’m less likely to show up. Because as we all know, advocating when you feel like an afterthought is an exhausting, uphill battle.

  • Disability looks different for every individual, and I know that there is no way to effectively meet all of our needs. But I’ve found that some organisations do a better job at identifying physical barriers for visible disabilities, than they do for invisible or dynamic disabilities. If I have to show up and advocate for myself then I’m less likely to show up. Because as we all know, advocating when you feel like an afterthought is an exhausting, uphill battle.

  • So I guess what I’m trying to say is, dearest queer organisers, this is the invitation I’m looking for:

    Dear Beth,

    We’re excited that you purchased a ticket to our non-specific super gay event! We noted that you’ve stated you have a few access needs, and we would love to work with you to create a framework to support you on the day.

    Please feel free to select any of the following actions that we can add to your framework:

    • Sign up for Text Alerts
      These will be notifications throughout the day with directions to the things we anticipate you will need. For example, when it gets hot we will text you directions to cooling stations or shaded tents. When you arrive, we will send you suggestions about where you can go to feel settled!
    • Support People
      If you would like to be connected to support people on the day, we can help! We have a team of qualified neurodivergent icons who will each be looking after a group of ten tangata whaikaha. They exist to provide you with an anchor and a safe place during the event! (Unfortunately we no longer take requests for support people, there aren’t enough butch lesbians to go around).
    • Interactive Map
      We know that it can be helpful to know what to expect! We’ve created an interactive Google Map, so you can plan out your route and navigation to your heart's content.

    These are just a few of the ways we would love to provide you with support. Please click this link to follow through to our website and begin building your framework. This event has been designed with you in mind, and we want to make sure you have as much opportunity to connect with the takatāpui community as possible. After all, queer joy is what Pride is all about!

    We’re looking forward to hosting you. If you sign up for a support person, they will provide you with some more specific information in the days leading up to the event. Alternatively keep an eye out for the Pride logo in your inbox, more info and takatāpui pride is coming your way ;)

    Ngā mihi mahana,
    The slayest of slay made-up pride organisations

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