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Pride and Precaution: Your Guide to Celebrating Being Queer with Care

Avoiding meltdowns and melanoma

I've been performing at Prides as a comedian and storyteller since glitter-covered T-rexes sashayed across Jurassic drag stages.

It's possible this is slight hyperbole.

It's also possible that I'll receive many emails from people who understand dinosaur-related timelines better than I do. 



Grave errors in evolution for comic purposes notwithstanding, in my over 200 Pride-related gigs, I have Seen Some Things. This includes things that have sometimes compelled me to don my nurse hat (even though nurses haven't worn hats for decades) and make some gentle suggestions:

Tip #1: Dress for (heat-related) success. Yes, we all want to look cute, but climate change is real, and it's really a drag. Not in a good way. Could we just as easily parade on the sweltering blacktop during National Coming Out Month in October? Perhaps, but where's the challenge in that? Until the October Pride catches on, plan that killer outfit so it won't literally kill you with heatstroke. Wear light colors and light fabrics. And breathable fabrics. 

Lame is not a breathable fabric. 

Tip #2: I scream, you scream, we all scream for sunscreen. And by all, I mean everyone. Even if you already have a tan, even if you have more naturally occurring melanin and even if you "never burn." It's not 1973. The Ozone Layer did its best but is down for the count. If it's hot, you will sweat off even "waterproof" sunblocks, which are mostly only theoretically waterproof, so be prepared to reapply. 

I asked S. Hope Dundas, a physician assistant based in Lansing, about Pride-related sun worries, and Dundas had some additional advice: "[If you're using] testosterone gel, wait for at least two hours after applying before applying sunscreen. Also, be aware that sun exposure can increase testosterone levels slightly. Estradiol therapy can make you more sensitive to the sun, so wear good quality sunscreen and, ideally, a hat — or have fun with a Pride-themed parasol. Keep estradiol patches covered and out of direct sunlight.”

Dundas also advised people taking doxyPEP or doxycycline to treat chlamydia or syphilis or minocycline for acne to be aware that these meds increase sun sensitivity. “Be extra careful to use good quality sunblock and cover-up,” she advises.

On a slightly less clinical note, did you know that cheap glitter is made of metal, which can reflect the sun back onto your skin? The resulting burn can be both painful and strange-looking. Trust me on this. Upgrade your glitter to biodegradable versions or sneak backstage and borrow some from a drag queen — they always have the good stuff. 

Tip #3: Replace homo FOMO with homo LOMO: Observing the whirlwind of activities that might not be available at any other time of the year can leave us constantly wondering, "Is this party/doggie drag show/penis-shaped bagel eating contest where I really want to be?" Instead of succumbing to the pressure to show up everywhere for everything the entire month, prioritize meaningful connections and experiences — the Love of Missing Out. If the Pride-themed Dungeons and Dragons night is more fun for you than the huge club blow-out, pack up your character sheets and go, kween! Did you really come all this way to go back into the 10-sided die closet?

Pro-tip: Titrating your social media scrolling may facilitate more lomo-esque choices.

Tip #4: Party like it's 2024. Because it is 2024. Research harm reduction for your drug of choice and test for fentanyl — every dose, every time. If you're drinking alcohol, especially in the heat, occasionally consume calories in the form of food (sure, even funnel cakes) and keep consuming water or sports drinks, preferably in a two-to-one ratio and NOT just as a mixer. Take designated driving turns; don't always make your pregnant lesbian friend be the one. 

If you're in recovery, especially early recovery, my friend Lisa from Traverse City explains, "Sober pride can be amazing, but don't just concentrate on breaking old habits; work on making new traditions with new friends who are not the people, places, and things [associated with your substance use]."

You can find fentanyl testing strips, Narcan and other harm reduction supplies in a free vending machine at Affirmations community center in Ferndale and other metro Detroit locations. Find a location near you here: shorturl.at/jkpAN.

Tip #5: Prep For the vexing ex. I haven't dated anyone who lives in my city for nearly a decade; two of my main lovers are, in fact, deceased and will never again attend any Pride, and for a quarter of my adult life, I was a Roman Catholic nun. Yet — and this defies the laws of probability and common sense — last year at the New York Dyke March, I ran into not one but two exes. Before we even started marching. 

Since I ran into my exes, I can almost guarantee you'll run into yours, even folks who made bad decisions. Or perhaps especially those who were a very bad decision. Dedra Smith, a therapist from Grand Rapids, suggests we take this opportunity to boost our boundaries. "If there's anyone with whom you had a difficult parting, it can be important to clarify if there are events, geographical areas or time frames that might make sense to negotiate [with them] about,” she recommends. “Even if one or both parties ultimately can't commit to a schedule or cede an entire event, having the conversation can alert you to the possibility that you might both be present. If you're attending events with your friends, you can let them know your level of comfort around running into a problematic ex and decide on a plan of action should it happen." 

And yes. Of course, we'll be attending events with our friends, who are also our exes. That's why Smith added the word "problematic." 

I'd prefer not to be a glitter killjoy, but sometimes, we all need reminders. Pride is not just about the celebration; it's about survival — of our fabulousness, our mental health and our resilience in living to annoy those who hate us another day. 



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