Pride season is here, so it's time to do something stupid in public! OR: I talk a bit about gay rights around the world, and how my year 7 art teacher almost ruined sex for me one time.
Dust off your rainbow flag, crash-starve yourself into those hot pants and order a metric fuckton of glitter from Amazon: It’s Pride season again!
I remember my first Pride… Actually, no, I don’t. Not really. It all gets a bit blurry from all the booze. I’ve checked with friends of mine, and I’m told I had a good time, which is nice.
All I really remember from those early ones is drinking far too much, thinking everyone was a lot hotter than me, and hating being constantly surrounded by people.
And do not even get me started on lesbians with whistles. Why is that a thing?
I like my space. I don’t get people who actually enjoy festivals. Something like Glastonbury sounds like my idea of hell. A week stuck in a ditch with thousands of people who’re so off their tits they’re trying to lick their own eyeballs and then spending £20 each time I want a crap cheeseburger is not my idea of a good time.
Anyway, yeah. I’ve honed my general pattern for Pride Day to something of a fine art. It tends to involve getting smashed on cheap booze around midday while watching the parade, and playing ‘Spot the guys I’ve already shagged’ as they march past; a game that’s pretty much a weird mashup of Guess Who and the conveyor belt section from The Generation Game. Actually, no - it’s more like a reverse Tinder - rather than saying “Yes, I would like to sleep with that person” or “No, I would not”, it’s “Yes, I have slept with that person”, or “No, I have not”, with the added fun of a category for “Mayybe we did...?? He definitely looks familiar...”
So, yeah I get horribly smashed day-drinking, spend half an hour pushing through the crowds in Soho before I realise I’m too old and too drunk for this shit, then head home ‘for a nap’ at about 3pm, sleep until the next morning and then get on with my life.
And every year there’s the inevitable brilliant argument about if X should be allowed, like the S&M pups might scare the children, or a military fly-by gives the wrong message. My favourite was the year when there was a big hoo-haa about whether gay UKIP members should be allowed to march. I was all for that one, to be honest. To my mind, if you can complete the sentence “I’m LGBT and…” then you can march. Admittedly, if you walk down the street proclaiming I’m LGBT and I vote UKIP, then lots of people are going to assume you’re a xenophobic, self-loathing fuckpuppet, but if that doesn’t make you think twice, then go for it. Shine on, you racist diamond.
Cuz, y’know, that’s the point of Pride, isn’t it? It’s not about saying “Look, we’re all the same” it’s about saying “We’re all different. This is who I am, and I’m proud of that.”
That was the point of the original Pride rally, after all. And if you don’t know the history of the Gay Liberation movement, or the names Marsha P. Johnson, and Brenda Howard, and Storme’ Devine, or what happened at the Christopher Street Revolution, then you need to go and do a google. It’s totally worth it. It involves gay and trans people, some in drag, forming a chorus line and chasing the riot police down the street while high-kicking and singing. Honestly. That’s a real thing.
We call Pride ‘Gay Christmas’, which is fun, although a couple of years ago, the Pope used his actual Christmas message to denounce homosexuality as a threat to all of humanity. Aaawkward. Anyway, enough of the silly man in a dress who’s lost his grip on reality and has no idea what’s going on around him, I’m talking about Pride, which is more about people in drag drinking so much that… Ah.
I remember one year, I managed to keep celebrating Pride all day and late into the night, at which point I decided I couldn’t be bothered going home, so in my drunken state managed to find someone who lived nearby on Grindr, who was willing to let me stay over in their flat.
I must have looked a state, but it didn’t seem to put him off. He was a ballet dancer, and really sweet, and interesting. I thought at the time he looked familiar, but was too drunk to really pay much attention.
The next morning, when I’d sobered up enough to thank him for his hospitality, in fact, it was right in the middle of giving him a good thanking, it clicked that his face reminded me a LOT of my old art teacher, who I’d hated and who was definitely not someone I wanted to think about during sex.
This didn’t matter for long, though, because just as I was realising that, I also realised that all of this vigorous moving about wasn’t as enjoyable for my stomach as it was for other body parts.
I didn’t actually throw up on his face, but I definitely got it on the pillow next to his head. And, still being a bit drunk, not knowing the layout of his flat, I panicked and just stuck my head out the window and rained bits of carrot all over Old Compton St below.
Nothing says ‘Pride’ like staggering home the next morning, covered in glitter, and having to get off the bus to be sick in a bin. Twice.
One of my favourite things to do around this time of year is listen out for the “I don’t see the point in Pride, we already have gay marriage” statements Those are my favourite. As if that’s it, and we can all just pack up and get on with our lives now.
Oh! Also!, just like clockwork, as Pride season comes round, so do all of those idiots crying oppression because there’s no straight pride day. Because there's a gay pride and that's equal rights. If things were equal we wouldn't need a gay pride. The LGBT rights movement came about not because we were celebrating, but because we were fighting the the right to exist.
As a species, we walked on the moon before we dared think that being queer wasn’t unnatural or against god. We imprisoned, beat and killed people for something that they did not choose and should not have to hide.
In Chechnya, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria Saudia Arabia and more to this day, being gay is punishable by death. And I’m not even going to list the countries where it’s ‘only’ imprisonment and torture.
In Uganda, the government passed a law condemning LGBT people to death, and the newspapers printed pictures of known homosexuals with the headline “Kill the gays”. That same year, under threat of a violent and state-sanctioned death, Ugandans held their first Gay Pride parade. And that’s what Pride is. It’s a big, sparkly fuck you to anyone who thinks that it’s acceptable to kill someone just for falling in love.
I hear a lot of people every year say “Oh, I’m not going, it’s too corporate now…” and yeah, it is, but that’s because hosting something like Pride isn’t free. It costs money to prepare for, y’know, arrange guests, advertise, close roads, to police and to cope with all the issues that come up during the day, and then to clean up afterwards.
And peoplee say “Yeah, but the government should pay for all of that…” but since they’re a bit busy at the moment not paying for school dinners so they can build another nuclear submarine, that’s not going to happen.
So it falls to local gay businesses who, it turns out, don’t make enough of a profit to pay for an annual concert with top-name acts and boys in hot pants, so then it becomes a free-for-all where any business that wants to be involved can be, as long as they pay a fee, and suddenly it’s banks and supermarkets that’s happily waving Pride flags.
In cities like Manchester and Brighton they have walled-off areas that are ticket-only on Pride day. You buy your ticket and contribute towards the running of the festival. Great. And that works because of how their cities are set up - they can wall off a small area because it’s just the gay businesses, or in Brighton’s case, put them all in a field just outside the city centre. Can’t do that in London, because the gay bars are aong other businesses and far too spread out. They did hold it in a park a few years ago, but it kinda fizzled, because no bugger came. They all danced in the streets of soho, the same as usual.
Besides, if you’re standing in your primark clothes, holding a Starbucks and thinking about going for a Nando’s later, I’d say you can shush on the corporate whining front, lest people in glass houses start getting letters from the neighbourhood watch. Anyway.
The big, silly Pride parades in countries that are lucky enough to be able to hold them aren’t about equality, they’re about celebrating progress, remembering how far we’ve come, without forgetting how much further there is still to go. We march, and dance, and drink, as a beacon to those who for now must live in fear. As a symbol of progress and hope for the future. We’re here, we’re queer; you’re not alone.
Happy Pride, everyone.