June 21, 2022

16 Subtle Ways To Celebrate Pride If You’re Not Out

Honor your LGBTQ+identity — no matter where you are on your journey.
Written by
Ella Dorval Hall
Published on
June 21, 2022
Updated on
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June is Pride Month, but if you aren’t out to friends and/or family you may feel unsure how to observe the month. You may want to celebrate and show you’re proud of your identity and the LGBTQ+ community at large, but not know how to do that in ways that feel good, comfortable, and safe. If you want to celebrate Pride, but you want to keep your LGBTQ+ identity to yourself, here are 16 ways you can celebrate subtly or in secret.

1. Remember, your identity is worth celebrating, even if you’re not out yet. 

Some people feel as though they aren’t “officially” LGBTQ+ until they tell other people, make some sort of announcement, or have certain experiences. However, your queerness, transness, or any other part of your LGBTQ+ identity is valid no matter who knows, how you present to the world, or what kinds of experiences you have or haven’t had.

2. Support and consume LGBTQ+ -made content. 

There are plenty of movies, TV shows, social media accounts, and other types of content made my LGBTQ+ folks. Consuming content that may portray life experiences similar to yours or include characters you can relate to, can be a fun way to get into the spirit of Pride. It can also be your way of showing support. Streaming a movie by a queer director, subscribing to a queer artist’s Patreon, watching a TikToker’s content you enjoy — all these things help a queer content creator in subtle, but meaningful ways. After all, the more we help and support queer artists, the more representation the queer community can have. 

3. Read LGBTQ+ books. 

Similar to watching LGBTQ+ movies and TV shows, it can feel good to see yourself represented in stories and to celebrate LGBTQ+ joy. If reading is your jam, try to find a book that centers on being bisexual, trans, intersex, aromantic, or whatever identity you relate to. It could be fiction, an autobiography, a history book, a graphic novel, or even a zine — there are lots of LGBTQ+ books by queer authors out there. 

4. Buy subtle Pride merch. 

If you want to celebrate Pride in secret with some products or merch that makes you feel good, there is plenty of subtle Pride merch out there. To start, you can get a poster with hidden Pride flag colors or wallpaper that subtly has the colors of a flag you identify with. For example, you can get hidden lesbian pride flag wallpaper.  You can buy discreet Pride pins, shirts, or something else that doesn’t have any overt images or words related to queerness. It can simply have a word, color, or hint that is meaningful to you.

5. Find secret places to sport your Pride colors. 

You can also be selective about where you place your Pride merch or symbols so they can stay secret. For example, you might sew a hidden rainbow patch in your clothes. You can put a patch on the inside sleeve of a denim jacket, or the inside tongue of your sneakers. This way, you know you’re representing the flag, but no one else can see it. 

6. Do something you love. 

You don’t have to do something specifically related to being LGBTQ+ to celebrate Pride. You can simply do something you love, whether that’s skateboarding, drawing, going on a walk, buying a coffee, going to your favorite restaurant, or playing video games. You might consider holding the intention of celebrating yourself and other LGBTQ+ people when you do that thing. This option may feel more accessible if you are concerned with other people learning you’re LGBTQ+.  

7. Buy yourself a gift. (Bonus points if it’s from a queer-owned shop.)  

Gift giving is a common part of celebrations, so for Pride, you can give yourself a gift. If you feel safe to do so, it may feel especially good to purchase something small that represents queerness. For example, a t-shirt that you feel totally queer wearing, or jewelry that is gender-affirming. You can also give yourself gifts like flowers, baked goods, your favorite snack from the grocery store, a dinner out, or the new item for your home that you’ve been eyeing. You can even write yourself a love note. You may also consider buying yourself a gift from a queer-owned shop. This is yet another way to show your support for the community while giving yourself something nice to celebrate you being you. 

8. Try on something that feels affirming of being LGBTQ+. 

For some people, wearing certain clothes, makeup, or hairstyles is an affirming way to express their identity and/or gender. It could be a pair of shoes, a hat, a binder, or a dress that you feel amazing wearing. If doing your makeup or hair a certain way would feel good, try it out. You can celebrate by wearing your look in public or you can just wear it in your bedroom, if that feels better and safer. You might try wearing something small and secret, only you know you have on.  If this feels like too big of a step for you, that’s okay. 

9. Learn the secret codes for queerness.

Historically, LGBTQ+ people, especially those in the gay community, used secret symbols to let other gay people know they were gay too. This was a safer way to show their identity and connect with others. If you aren’t out yet, you can lean on these codes as well. Other people in the community may recognize them, but those who aren’t queer likely won’t even notice. For example, hanging a carabiner and keys off your belt loop has historically been used among lesbians.You might try stitching the Greek letter Lambda (λ) on a piece of clothes as it used to be a symbol of gayness. Flagging, also known as The Hanky Code, where you put a colored bandana in your back pants pocket, is part of a code that signals sexual preferences. 

10. Speaking of queer coding, wear or make a green carnation. 

A green carnation is a code for queerness. It was historically used by gay men in London, and made an appearance in an Oscar Wilde play in 1892. Since then, the green carnation has been a code for gayness that those in the community will likely recognize. Those who are not queer, however, will likely just think it’s an interesting looking flower. You can wear one in a breast pocket, as a corsage, or even try making your own green carnation with food coloring.  

11. Learn Polari, an old, secret “queer language.”

If you’re looking for another secret way to celebrate Pride, you can learn the secret queer language of Polari (aka the secret gay language of Britain). You might be familiar with Polari if you know words like zhoosh, drag, or butch. This language was used in parts of Europe when homosexuality was criminalized. It was a way for LGBTQ+ people and sex workers to safely communicate within their communities. Polari does, however, include some misogynistic and racist language as it is dated. You can take the parts that resonate with you, and leave the rest behind. Read more about its history and get familiar with the language this Pride month. 

12. Attend a local event as an “ally.”

Depending on your situation, you may feel safe to attend a local Pride parade or event as an “ally.” You don’t have to tell anyone you’re going if you don’t want to. Even if you aren’t claiming a queer identity yourself, attending an event can help you connect with the community — often an important part of people’s journey of feeling affirmed and supported. Plus, many Pride events are just plain fun! If you need Pride sign ideas, we got you covered.

13. Learn about the  LGBTQ+ rights movements.

Learning about the LGBTQ+ rights movements can be an important way to feel more connected to the queer community, whether you’re out or not. It can help build an appreciation for those who came before you and worked hard so the movement can be where it is today. It can also show you how far we still need to go, and help you think about ways, big and small, you might want to contribute to the movement today. 

14. Have a celebratory night in.

You can combine several of these ideas and have a Pride night in. Rebecca Minor, LICSW, gender specialist, says one way to celebrate Pride if you’re not out “would be having a night in and wearing something that makes you feel good, listening to LGTBQ+ artists and cooking yourself a nice meal, watching LGBTQ+ movies, and/or doing a self care/spa night for yourself.” If nothing else, you can just spend a night in, scrolling the Internet for hilarious Pride month memes

15. Attend virtual Pride events where you can remain anonymous. 

“Folks could participate in Pride events, either in person or virtually if there is concern about anonymity,” Minor tells  There are many online Pride events, especially because of the pandemic. You can search for LGBTQ+ virtual Pride events on platforms like Eventbrite or Facebook. Keep a lookout on social media for events and check the social media channels of LGBTQ+ educators to see if they are posting about events. 

16. Donate to and join LGBTQ+ communities. 

Joining an online community can be an exciting way to celebrate being LGBTQ+ with people like you. “There are lots of online LGBTQ+ community spaces where people can experience support and connection without needing to be out to family or friends,” Minor tells Some online communities are run by LGBTQ+ organizations, like TrevorSpace, created by The Trevor Project. Online communities like these are easy to stay anonymous in. You can also attend virtual support groups, like one of the many LGBTQ+ support groups run by Schuyler Bailar, a LGBTQ+ educator, author, and advocate. You can donate to any of these groups, and consider becoming a GLAAD member and donating

The bottom line 

No matter where you are on your queer journey, you can celebrate Pride. Finding a way to partake that feels safe and comfortable may take a little exploring, but know that there are plenty of options. If you are seeking support on how to come out, how to find safety or allies, or something else, there are also plenty of LGBTQ+ resources that can help

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Ella Dorval Hall (she/they) is a white, eating disorder recover-er, sex and pleasure educator. She's worked at a national sexual health organization, Healthy Teen Network, training educators how to teach evidence-based sex education curriculums. Ella now hosts workshops, writes, and does 1:1 education that brings people the information and skills they need to actually enjoy sex. You can find more of Ella’s work on Instagram @unlearnings3x.

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