Pride 101: The First-Timer’s Self-Care Guide to Pride

From what to wear to after-care— here’s everything you need to know to enjoy your first Pride.

During Pride Month, queer-themed events of all kinds across Canada mean there’s something out there for everyone to enjoy. But while artisanal fairs and game nights are plenty to satisfy any social calendar—Pride is where untethered queer magic comes to life. 

After more than two years of pandemic living, many 2SLGBTQ+ youth and allies will attend Toronto Pride for the first time this June, and in other cities throughout the summer months. If you’re looking to explore the event for the first time, you likely have questions and maybe some mixed emotions. That’s why It Gets Better Canada is here to be your trusty fairy godmother, and help you get ready for it!

Pride 101 Guide

a photo of a group of IGBC volunteers

How did Pride start?

Pride, as we know it today, was born on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

At the time, same-sex relations were illegal and gay bars like the Stonewall Inn provided a rare refuge where people could freely express themselves and find community. On June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Inn, sparking groundbreaking riots over six days to protest police brutality. 

One year later, thousands of people marched in a parade to demand equality. It ignited a movement—paving the way for 2SLGBTQ+ rights and a more inclusive society.

While we recognize there is still much work to do, every June we celebrate the human rights that those who came before us fought to gain. We show up—inherently deserving of being seen, heard, and proud of who we are.

A chance to connect with others—and ourselves

Going to Pride for the first time is an important milestone in any burgeoning queer person’s life. 

Just ask anyone on our team at It Gets Better Canada. Pride is where some of us publicly acknowledged our sexuality or gender identity for the first time. It’s where we had our first kiss. It’s where we first felt a sense of belonging. 

For our first time Pride goers – check out some inspiring messages in the videos below.

a photo of a group of smiling people holding pride flags

For many of us in this post-pandemic world, Pride 2022 symbolizes rekindled hope and the next step in our collective healing. It’s also a time to reinvigorate our drive for change—by sharing our stories and building community. 

If you’re an ally, adding your presence, voice, and action to the day makes a huge statement for 2SLGBTQ+ youth who hope to connect with the community in a safe and empowering environment.

If you’re a queer youth, we understand that you may be excited or nervous (or both!) about making your Pride debut. 

That’s why—whether you’re still on the fence, or you’re hand-stitching rainbow patches onto your denim vest as we speak—we’ve created this self-care guide to help you get the most out of your experience. 

a photo of IGBC pride parade group

Now let’s make your very first Pride a day (and night) to remember!

Can I go if I’m not out? 

Absolutely. Many of us have different reasons why we decide not to come out. And you could choose to never come out if it doesn’t feel right to you. There are plenty of allies that attend Pride—in full rainbow regalia—to add their voice to the cause. So there’s no basis for others to make assumptions about your sexuality or gender identity simply for being there. 

Many folks who are out themselves are delightfully welcoming and excited to show off our thriving community as one that will love you and fight for you. This realization can be a deeply comforting and validating experience. 

Being surrounded by others like you, and who share your values, feels like coming home to your chosen family. So yeah, we highly recommend it.

What do I wear to Pride? 

Whatever you want, in whatever way you choose! That’s the whole idea, really.

Whether you keep your outfit aligned with your everyday wear, test out a fresh new look, or fully commit to the rainbow—there’s no better day for it. Pride is a great opportunity to express yourself in a safe and welcoming space.

Pro tips: You can help support queer-owned small businesses in your area by buying Pride t-shirts, pins, pronoun buttons, hair scrunchies, and other fun things to boost your flare.

a photo of a person wearing a rainbow shirt

Or why not use your DIY skills to transform a piece of clothing you already have with fabric-friendly supplies? Wear your heart on your sleeve by writing your message on it with fabric paint. Check out this video featuring three DIYs that are sure to get you noticed!

Pride flags of all kinds are available online that you can carry, drape over your backpack, or wear creatively. But if subtlety is your jam—a little face paint, makeup, or nail polish in all six shades will get you well on your way.

Whatever you choose, remember to keep the June weather and your overall comfort in mind. Slather on some sunscreen and protect that beautiful head from the rays!

Pack light, but well

Along with your sunscreen and hat, bring a small backpack, purse, or another means of carrying your essentials. 

Consider things like an insulated water bottle, a snack, bus fare, your ID, and a rain poncho—which can help you stay dry in a dense crowd when you can’t unfurl an umbrella.

a photo of two people looking at each other holding a pride flag

Go with a buddy

Asking a supportive friend or another loved one to go with you can help calm first-time jitters. You’ll also have someone to share memories with for years to come.

Pro tips: Wear matching or complementary outfits to up your buddy vibes and publicly celebrate your support system. 

While you’re at it, why not get ready together? Create your very own Pride playlist or listen to an existing one on your favourite music streaming app. Bask in those gloriously queer vibes as you bond over snacks and body glitter applications.

You might be thinking, “what if I don’t have a buddy?”

Plenty of people go to Pride on their own, for many different reasons. Flying solo means having the freedom to make the experience completely your own. 

For your first time, you might decide to go for an hour or two—just to watch the parade or catch a drag show. Or, you might set out to explore the community and make a new friend. Who knows, you could strike gold and reinvent your social circle in one swoop, to one that more authentically aligns with who you are. Whatever your style is, it can be a truly empowering experience to attend Pride on your own. Besides, one thing is for sure—you won’t be alone in the crowd.

You might be thinking, what if I don’t have a buddy-1@0.25x

Pro-tip for the lone rangers: A few safety considerations will keep you having a good time. Plan your day ahead, try to let someone know where and when you’re going, and make sure your phone is fully charged. Have bus or taxi fare on you, stay close to the crowd, and keep to well-lit areas at night. Refer back to Pack light, but well for more ideas on what to bring.

a photo of two people looking at each other holding pride signs

Go with an open mind

Pride is the ultimate display of “loud and proud”—an extravert’s paradise. This unapologetic celebration of sexual fluidity and gender expression is meant to challenge social norms and set a tone of boundless love and acceptance. 

When you go with an open mind, you get to immerse yourself in the experience and truly appreciate the 2SLGBTQ+ community for its limitless beauty and diversity. 

Also, representation is a powerful thing. Witnessing such an open and honest display of humanity can be liberating for someone attending Pride for the first time. It just might inspire you to breathe a little easier and sink into your own truth too. 

That said, you don’t have to participate in anything you don’t want to. Remember, living your truth is all about honouring who you are—including your boundaries.

Use your allyship to uplift queer voices 

While we have come a long way in the 53 years since Stonewall, we still have a lot of work to do to help protect 2SLGTBQ+ rights and resolve the issues that still exist today. 

If you’re an ally, you can help keep sacred spaces like Pride safe for sexually and gender diverse people—especially youth, trans folks, people with disabilities, and those attending the event for the first time. You can do this by lending your presence and offering support if you witness unkind words or behaviour directed at people in the community.

Another way to lend your voice and action to the day—and to the cause, all year—is to engage with queer folks you meet in the community. See someone who came to Pride alone? It’s a great day to strike up a conversation, listen to someone’s story, or offer a message of encouragement. 

Show you’re an ally by wearing your message on your outfit (“proud parent” or “free mom hugs” shirt, anyone?) and support queer-owned small businesses by buying their Pride-themed items.

As a mindful ally, it’s also important to recognize your role. Pride is a dedicated space for 2SLGBTQ+ folks to shine and celebrate unapologetically—free for a moment from the barriers that still exist in their daily lives. While queer folks love and benefit so much from your participation, please keep in mind that your enjoyment comes second.

Practice self-care

As we mentioned earlier, Pride is an extravert’s paradise. The large crowds gathered downtown—along with the heat, the sights, and the sounds—can also mean sensory overload for those of us with a heightened sensitivity. 

This includes those of us still getting used to life outside of self-isolation, those still figuring out their gender or sexual identity, introverted folks, and those in the neurodivergent or disability communities.

Approaching this new experience with self-care in mind means prioritizing your needs and taking steps to help curb or prevent overwhelm if you can.

Pro tips: First, identify your usual or anticipated triggers. Then, come up with a few ways in advance that you can help deflect feeling overwhelmed if you’re faced with any of them during Pride.

a photo of someone sitting on a chair looking down

For example, if the outdoor heat and humidity are hard to bear, pick a place nearby with AC to cool off every hour. Keep your insulated water bottle replenished with cold water and ice. Refer back to Pack light, but well and You might be thinking, “what if I don’t have a buddy?” for more ideas on how to prepare.

If dense crowds make you feel trapped, locate an open green space or a quiet area away from it all. Take refuge to recentre yourself whenever you’ve taken in a lot of stimuli. A great trick to curb a panic attack while standing in a crowd is to look straight up at the sky above you. Really take in the vast openness. Once you’ve settled—go have yourself a solid break.

A great way to calm shallow, anxious breathing is by practicing the box breathing technique:

  1. First, take a slow, deep breath all the way down to your belly while slowly counting to four. Feel your lungs fill up with air.
  2. Hold your breath for four seconds. Try not to inhale or exhale as you count to four in your mind.
  3. Exhale slowly for 4 seconds through your mouth.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you feel a sense of calm.

The 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique can also interrupt spiraling thoughts and ground you in the present. 

  1. Start by naming FIVE things you can see around you.
  2. Then, FOUR things you can touch or feel.
  3. THREE things you can hear.
  4. TWO things you can smell.
  5. ONE thing you can taste.

Even so, for many of us, some difficulties aren’t easily curbed by planning ahead. 

Practicing self-care also means recognizing our limitations and saying no to things that hurt us. You can totally be queer and still choose not to go to Pride. You live that Pride spirit just by exercising your right to decide what’s best for you.

Empower yourself!

a photo of someone sitting on a exercise ball flexing their bicep

Exercise after-care

After-care means checking in with yourself to see how you’re doing after living a new experience, or even a familiar one. It’s a great way to look after your mental and physical health, make sure your needs are met, and identify the best ways to honour yourself going forward. This applies whether you had the best time of your life, or not.

After you immerse yourself in queer culture for the first time, we recommend taking a quiet moment to reflect on your day. Gently notice any memories, thoughts, or feelings that come up for you. This can be done through quiet self-reflection, journaling, or talking with a trusted friend

Here are a few prompts to get you started:

  • Did Pride meet my expectations? Yes or no, and in what ways?
  • What feelings come up for me when I look back on the day?
  • How do I feel knowing Pride 2022 is over and I’m heading back to my daily life?
  • In what ways was I inspired, or what are some key takeaways that I want to add to my life post-Pride?
  • How has this new experience shaped me? 
  • What have I learned about myself or other people, if anything?
  • Would I go back next year? Why or why not?
  • What experiences did I enjoy the most? Were there any parts of that experience I would avoid next time?
  • Where did I most feel comfortable? (this could also be in your home, after the festivities!)

Video Messages

After reading this, if you’re still on the fence about going to Pride, maybe the grandeur of Toronto just isn’t your style or doesn’t fit your current or natural capacity. 

Consider attending a smaller Pride celebration in the GTA or in another city like Ottawa or Montreal. Check out to find out what’s happening in a community near you all summer long, and throughout the year.

We hope this guide helps make your very first Pride everything you want it to be.

Take good care of yourself— and go make some memories!

About the Author

photo of Marie-Eve Carrière

Marie-Eve Carrière (she/her) is an Ottawa-based Content Writer. She is an intern at It Gets Better Canada through Humber College’s Professional Writing and Communications graduate program, where she is a two-time Dean’s Honour List student. Recognizing the power of self-advocacy and empowered by ADHD and learning disability diagnoses during the pandemic, she set out to reinvent her 12-year government career into one that aligns with her authentic self. As an intersectional feminist, bisexual, and neurodivergent professional, she uses storytelling and community engagement as tools for social change. She is an outspoken advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ issues and uses her writing to help shape a more informed and compassionate world. Marie-Eve lives with her loving husband and their wonderfully inquisitive son.

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