Communities should be mindful of safe alcohol consumption at Pride festivals

Valeria Pizarro

The annual Pride celebration began decades ago following the Stonewall riots, which were triggered by a police raid of the New York City gay bar Stonewall Inn. The violent raid inspired a series of demonstrations for LGBTQ rights. Today, these demonstrations are honored annually with the Pride celebrations that stretch throughout the summer months. Like any other celebration, it’s not uncommon for many people in attendance to freely consume alcohol. 

But because of the LGBTQ community’s history of substance abuse with alcohol, it is imperative that the organizers of Pride increase promotion and awareness of safe alcohol consumption. 

According to the Center for American Progress, 25 percent of gay and transgender individuals in the United States deal with alcohol abuse, compared to only 5 percent in the general American population. Historically, bars have provided a common ground and a safe space for LGBTQ people who otherwise couldn’t be themselves in public.

“The history of alcohol in the queer community goes back really far, because for a long time, the only places that we really had to gather were in bars,” said Liz Elsen, assistant director of UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

Although much of the LGBTQ community has been centered around socializing in bars or celebrating Pride with alcohol, it’s important to have an increased focus on combating alcohol abuse within these spaces. Seven out of 27 sponsors of Austin Pride were either alcohol brands or local bars.

Dialogue about safe consumption of alcohol and awareness of risks is especially crucial because of the large number of young LGBTQ members who attend Pride. According to the Journal of Primary Prevention, substance use among gay and lesbian individuals is declining, although there is a rise of abuse among younger individuals. Additionally, bisexual and transgender people are more at risk of substance abuse.

“We have a lot of young LGBTQ people who are there [at Pride] with us, and most of the time, it can be imposed that you have to have alcohol to have fun,” biology senior Armando Estrada said.

Organizers of the popular Pride events have a responsibility to be positive influences for the younger individuals. 

With all this information in mind, it’s evident that there need to be safe spaces for the LGBTQ community that are free of alcohol. Pride is only an annual event and one of the few mainstream events where the LGBTQ community can gather and celebrate. The seven sponsors are not responsible for creating the necessary safe spaces or awareness. It’s up to the LGBTQ community’s leaders to shape how the event goes, so they have to be more mindful of the influence of alcohol at Pride.

Valeria Pizarro is an English sophomore.