It has been many years since I last attended Pride in London, not because I have anything against the idea of Pride, in fact, I argue vociferously with people who question the need for Pride. It is just that in the past I have felt it wasn’t for me. A combination of social anxiety, health problems and a lack of people to go with stopped me from attending.
This year, however, I decided to go for a few reasons. Partly it was because of the horrific events in Orlando and the need to stand with my LGBT+ brothers and sisters in a sign of solidarity and defiance. It was also so I could give the opportunity to members of an online group I belong to have a friendly face to go with in case they felt as I used to. Another reason was to push myself. Over the years my social anxiety has prohibited me from doing things I wanted to do, and as I am slowly getting to grips with this, I do try and push my personal boundaries and step outside my comfort zones every so often.
Whilst at Pride in London, the events of the day made me start to write, or rather type into my phone, about what was going on and how I was feeling. These ruminations, edited afterwards, became the article below:
As I begin to write this article, I am sat in a restaurant just off Leicester Square, having watched the London Pride parade go by. I am sat in a hetero-normative environment, surrounded by families and heterosexual couples for one reason: if I’m going to be invisible, I might as well be in a place where I’m used to being invisible! My fellow gays, along with the whole spectrum of sexualities and genders, are partying, drinking, singing and dancing not too far from where I am sat, but I am sat alone.
But let me start at the very beginning, as it’s a very good place to start, apparently! My day began when I queued up to go into Trafalgar Square. I got there early as I wanted to see the opening act; Kinky Boots. In the queue, I tried to engage in conversation with people, but after initial niceties, I was blanked! Even discussing the religious protestors who had positioned themselves at the entrance, did not proceed further than initial thoughts – mainly because I didn’t agree with the idea of getting them arrested, dumping water on them or simply breaking their equipment. My ascertain that they have every right to stand and protest just as we as LGBT+ people have every right to march, but that’s a whole different story!
I got into Trafalgar Square, watched the Kinky Boots segment, the Vanity Von Glow (I think I freaked her out before hand as I spotted her walking across the square, went over and said it was an honour to meet her, which it was, but I don’t think she was expecting to be accosted before her set). I saw a couple of other acts then walked to the parade route to find a place to watch.
When watching the parade go by, I felt like I belonged. Not because anyone, other than some of the people in the parade, spoke to me or even acknowledged I was there. It was because the people walking, riding and dancing by were being themselves and by watching them I felt like I was part of the community. The community that had come together to celebrate each and every person irrelevant of sexual orientation or gender. The community that had come together to say #LoveWins and #LoveIsLove. The community that had come together the previous week to mourn the loss of its brothers and sisters in Orlando. The community within which I should feel free to be me, the real me, the fierce, feisty, camp and just a little bit outrageous me.
It was life affirming to see every sexuality and gender represented. To see companies, political parties, religions, charities, social groups, sports teams, families and individuals marching, celebrating, living and loving – I even spotted one or two of my favorite YouTubers!
But then the parade ended and once again I found myself alone as life carried on all around me. This was when I ended up in the restaurant feeling sorry for myself and contemplating going home.
I decided to walk back past Trafalgar Square wondering whether to go back in and try to engage, connect with the world I am part of but feel separate from. As I did, I saw a friendly face, a face I knew, but not of someone who necessarily knows me: YouTuber, and all round nice guy, Gary C. But he was on his phone, so I didn’t disturb him.
I stopped under a tree, partly to shade myself from the rain that had started again, but also to update this piece of writing in my phone.
Then as I was writing, I was approached by three young people. Teenagers, enjoying pride for the first time, wanting me to take a photo of them and then we got chatting. They were a little bit tipsy but friendly enough. In fact, they were great young people, young people who were full of love, life, and excitable vigour. Young people who, despite being tipsy, made more sense than many of the older generation ever do. Young people who were not LGBT+ themselves, they were allies. I talked with them for a while. They asked if I was having a good day and of course I lied and said I was.
After a short while, I got kind of dragged back into the throng in Trafalgar Square by these young ‘uns and I have to say, I loved it. Those three young people, without realizing it made my Pride. They showed me kindness and that happiness and love should be at the centre of everything.
The fact that someone thought that the young guy was my son was, actually I was going to say it was a little insulting, but technically if he was 18 as he said, technically he could’ve been as he was 18 years my junior, so moving quickly on! Admittedly, I lost my rainbow flag and bandana – presents to the young ‘uns – but it was worth it. My Pride was lifted, I sang along with a drag queen to ‘I Am What I Am’, I danced like no one was watching, oh, and I got to see Alesha Dixon perform.
Fun had, the young ‘uns departed and I wandered around Trafalgar Square for a while ended up having my photo taken by some random guy who decided to hug me – such is Pride!
I then decided to make my way home but was feeling much more positive than earlier when I had considered going home. I made my way to the tube, then to the train station, where I was evacuated due to the fire alarms going off – apparently, someone had set off a smoke alarm in the toilets! Which was just one final bit of excitement to finish off my day at London Pride!