The Meaning of Pride,
By Amie Taylor, Harry, Immy and Michael
About a year ago I wrote a blog on London Pride, asking why I had to be ‘proud’ and why I couldn’t just be ‘normal’? I talked about bits and bobs and drew my own conclusions about the real meaning of Pride. This year, I handed the question over to Harry, Immy and Michael from our Youth Review team, they are almost (not quite) the next generation to me, we are separated by the fact that I grew up and went to school under Section 28, they have grown up and gone to school under The Equality Act. I work with young people a lot; I often see how so much has changed since I was at school. And I also see how it hasn’t. Here they are speaking a little about what Pride means to them.
Pride means a lot of things to me, though I’ve never actually been before, this year I will be going for the first time with a group of friends and I am very excited. The friends I’m going with are both from the LGBT+ community and allies and I can see a clear split in what Pride means to them and how it’s different to what it means to me. For some of my friends it’s more about supporting those they care about. For me however Pride means acceptance and understanding from a lot of people, even people I haven’t met before. Acceptance has been really difficult for me in the past and still is as I’m still in the process of coming out as gender-fluid. I’ve lost friends because they haven’t been able to accept or understand my gender and my family still struggle with my pronouns on a daily basis. So the idea that at Pride people will accept and understand me without feeling the need to question everything is really wonderful. Pride also reminds me that I am exactly who I’m meant to be, and that I should be proud of that. There is nothing wrong with me and I have nothing to apologise for. I am exactly who I am supposed to be and that includes my gender and sexuality and always will.
Having never been lucky enough to attend a Pride Celebration, for me Pride is very much a concept, rather than a specific celebration event. Obviously it is amazing to see the LGBT+ community having such high global visibility, and things like the Pride Arts Festival are incredible at helping to promote artists who may not otherwise get exposure. However, for me Pride is something quite intangible, it’s the sense of community that you can feel whether or not you’re there in the marches or watching at home or just seeing pictures on your Twitter feed. With so much LGBT+ campaigning done by cisgender white gay men, for me Pride is a celebration of the diversity that exists within this incredible community and a celebration of minorities within a group that is in itself inherently marginalised. I believe that the level of visibility that Pride gets every year is also incredibly important for young LGBT+ people, as it is living, marching, singing proof that you are by no means the only person to feel the way you do, and that there is a movement and a society to which you automatically belong. This sense of communal enjoyment and belonging, and defiance of the negative stereotypes associated with LGBTQ+ youth is one of the key parts of the ethos of Pride for me; not only is it a celebration but it is also a reminder of the richness and vibrancy that comes with being a part of it.
There was a time a few years ago when, in school, it was deeply unfashionable to wear things belonging to the clothes line “Gap”. The three letters could, or so the joke went, be understood as an acronymn for the phrase “gay and proud”. And so in walk-in wardrobes across West London, all manner of T-shirts and sweaters, of branded trainers and pull-string hoodies (we all had utterably vanilla dress senses) were rendered, suddenly, naff and unwearable. This was the context in which I discovered my queerness; the same one in which I discovered that the notion of being proud of it – indeed, of announcing it, of taking charge of it, of being open about it in any way – was laughable. I now feel divorced from that point in my life. For I’m writing this in a place where I have queer politics. Where I have the intellectual comfort of a theory; where I have security; where I have the confidence in my own identity of the kind that knowledge and experience – together with a not insubstantial dose of privilege – can bring. I have met and talked to and read the work of huge numbers of articulate queer people, who were able to express the validity of their love and mine in terms which were stirring and persuasive and powerful; they gave me a weaponry of arguments to defend my sense of self. I have queer friends. I have support networks. I have, above all, a sense of belonging. There is a culture and community which was built for people like me, and I feel an awareness of my own place within it. But when I first stumbled upon Pride, some five-odd years ago, I had none of these things. What I had instead was confusion and uncertainty, and internalized homophobia. And I really did stumble across it, too – I found Pride entirely by accident, walking down Regent Street one summer day whilst it happened to be taking place. What I remember most clearly was feeling a vague sense of queasiness. A kind of quiet moral outrage, directed at what I saw to be the general atmosphere of frankness, the lack of embarassement, the rudeness of the whole thing. Men clad in nothing save for skimpy swimming trunks; inflated phalluses of unapologetic crassness; the works. What I was experiencing, in my own naive and unworldly way, was a confused response to a mass-scale expression of queer identity – one that was brash, vulgar and unashamed. It was confounding to me, this closeted kid whose own socialised sense that gay inclinations were best dealt with calmly, tactfully ignored, if not actively repressed and scrupulously denied, had led to alienation from his own feelings and desires. But that sense of shock, of distate even, soon gave way to something else. Because I think I felt that day, for the first time, that, just maybe, it would be possible for me to express my queer self in ways other than keeping it hidden beneath a contrived hetero facade forever. That consistent denial as I settled down with a wife and children didn’t have to be my future. I properly understood then that, if I chose to be open, I could find people who would accept me, celebrate me; who wouldn’t judge me for who I loved. I had always wanted my sexuality to be invisible. Pride mattered to me because, that first time I witnessed it, I learned that not only was it okay to want for it to be visible, but that I could do so in ways which were dramatic and outlandish; which were marked out in hues of garish pink. Peter Tatchell speeches and B. Ruby Rich helped me to feel happy in my queer identity. But so, importantly, did floats and rainbow flags, and people taking over public space, and an oversized, inflated bright-pink penis, trailing louchely in a cloudless June sky.
Image (C) Sharon Davey 2015 (@thecreativefox)