Pride makes me proud. Even just talking about it now I already feel nostalgic about the celebrations I haven’t yet taken part in this summer. But I must admit, I haven’t always thought so highly of the Pride events that take place across the country every year. If we go back five or six years and you asked me if I was attending one of the many cities which fly the rainbow flags in unity then it is likely I’d have responded with an upturned nose. I simply didn’t get it. I really struggled to see why people had to make a song and dance (literally) about being different. I used to feel patronised – there’s no ‘straight pride’ to speak of, so why do we need to be publicly humiliated with our own parade?
At this point in my life I hadn’t realised that my journey of accepting who I was as a person was far from over. My ability to deal with people in the world being unaccepting of gay people hadn’t been perfected. There was a huge chip on my shoulder and I hadn’t quite mastered the art of picking my battles. I was yet to see that you can’t educate everybody and you certainly can’t change their minds. I was a hypocrite. My mind needed changing and Pride was going to be the thing to show me this.
I didn’t venture out to my first Pride until 2014. I was 24 years of age and I had been out of the closet for over 10 years – to some people anyway. I will be honest; I only went because my friends were going and I didn’t want to miss out on getting drunk with them and potentially partake in some mild flirting. It was the first time I’d ever watched the parade and that alone was enough to take my bratty, misinformed attitude and flip it on its head forever. Before me I witnessed all of these people; these magnificently different, vibrant, strangely dressed, brilliantly dressed, cross dressed and undressed people. Unified and marching together for the same reasons. A proud crowd saying it loud. I cried from happiness and from sadness. And partially from alcohol. And a dozen other emotions I can’t even name. And upon being kissed on the cheek by a hunky, mature fireman (I say fireman, it could have been any of the emergency services – we were three bottles of fizz deep at this point) I felt the freest and most accepted I ever could be. It was magical.
As a gay man I must admit that I do still feel heavily underrepresented in the media. That isn’t to say that things haven’t come a long way. We all know that they have. The end of the 90s brought us Queer as Folk, and since then we’ve enjoyed the explicit delights and heartbreaking stories from the cross over shows Cucumber and Banana, not to mention other shows before this – Playing It Straight and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. We also have the wonderfully talented Graham Norton and Alan Carr hosting side-splitting shows, with contributions from guests from all walks of life. This is all very well and good, for say a white, British, gay man. But I can’t be the only one who sees a lack of exposure for other groups within the LGBTQ community. Sometimes I feel lucky to be the G in that sequence of letters, because at least the category I identify with is given more air time. Pride events see huge numbers of people and organisations come together to fight oppression, hate crime and inequality. The world has a long way to go on this front, but as long as we continue to ally with bigger companies and organisations, the more successful we will be in showing those who need it that they are beings of value and worth, and showing everybody else the same thing.
The prospect of mentioning that I’d be going to Pride over the weekend to a colleague or acquaintance I didn’t really know used to make me tremendously uncomfortable. I wasn’t afraid of confirming my sexuality. My fear lay within the idea that they may respond in a way which meant I’d have to challenge them. I dislike confrontation, and maybe it says a lot about myself as a person that I’d hate to make somebody feel bad in return for making me feel bad. Picking battles and all that jazz. But every year that goes by this gets a bit easier. This year on holiday I experienced an unacceptable amount of homophobia, and it was hard to remind myself that the problem lies with them rather than myself. An incredible bunch of people let me cry and talked me through it. We need to go out and make sure everybody has a similar support network to lean on. So that’s why it won’t be stopping me from dancing in the street with my hundreds and thousands of friends and allies at Pride this summer.
Celebrate Pride with us on 8th July with DJ Stewart Who and Ru Paul's Drag Race stars.