Frodo (16) gives us their top ways of dealing with sensory issues at Pride.
Do your research!
Every pride event is different so it is important to know where you’re going ahead of time. Is it a large or a small event? How many people are predicted to be there? Is there a quiet room? Knowing as much as you can beforehand can alleviate anxiety and help you prepare yourself so that you can make the most of your event.
Another thing to research beforehand is the venue. Find out as much as you can about the space and its size. This is especially important if you find crowding or echoes an issue. This research is also important if you have mobility needs and need to know how or if these will be accommodated.
Friends are a lifeline if you’re anxious about going to a pride event. Find a group of people you know and get on with and make sure you can contact each other if something goes wrong. Having friends around who know you well means you are with someone who can help if you start to get overwhelmed. Also, you’re less likely to feel claustrophobic on the march if you’re surrounded by people you know.
Ear Defenders are Your Friend
Pride events can be busy and crowded, and they are almost always loud. People will be shouting, there will be music, lots of people will be talking at once. This can be very overwhelming if you don’t plan in advance. Having a pair of ear defenders or noise cancelling headphones can help with this. Having a way to reduce sensory stimuli allows you to enjoy the event whilst also minimising things that may lead to sensory overload
The march itself can often be one of the main reasons why people go to a pride event. However, it is often the most loud, crowded and overstimulating part. There are two main ways to deal with this.
The first is to join the march after it’s started, for instance at the middle or towards the end. Most events will publish the route beforehand so this shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish. This option allows you to have the experience of partaking in the march without being surrounded by increased sensory stimuli for an extended period of time.
The second option would be to skip the march entirely. A lot of pride events have an option to not participate in the march but to attend the other aspects of the event. This is a good option if you feel the march would be too overwhelming but still want to experience a pride event
The sunflower lanyard is a scheme used throughout the UK to signify that someone has a hidden disability (e.g anxiety, autism or a heart condition). You can collect them from most train stations or airports, or purchase them online. This can be a good way to let people around you know that you might be struggling without having to explicitly explain why.
A similar option would be to purchase a badge online. You can find a lot of badges on etsy and similar sites with messages such as: ‘I have auditory processing disorder’ or ‘I find loud noises overwhelming’. Again, this is just another way to let people know that you find an environment difficult and can help you feel more comfortable.
In conclusion, my main points for attending a pride event as a person who experiences sensory issues are to plan ahead, bring friends, find a way to reduce sensory stimuli and consider wearing a sunflower lanyard/ badge. I hope this has helped people who might be considering going to a pride event for the first time or who just wanted more information.