Pride: Learning To Be Comfortable In My Own Skin
“There’s Nothing Wrong With You, There’s A Lot Wrong With The World You Live In” – Chris Colfer
I went to London Pride this year but this post is not about that. London Pride was not what I hoped it would be. Instead, this post is one I wrote almost a year ago when I’d been to my first ever pride in my hometown.
I knew I was gay when I was 12. I went to my first gay bar three years ago when I was 21. I snogged a girl – one of those passionate we’re the only two people in this whole world I never want this to end kind of kisses. When we (finally) pulled away and it became clear she wanted more that night (and boy did I want to go to her house for ~coffee~) I told her I was straight so I didn’t have to come out to the friends I was there with. Stupid, right? As if they didn’t at least suspect after watching me kiss another girl.
But I wasn’t out. I was still that scared girl who was too afraid to reveal this secret. It was deep-seated and the longer it stayed buried the bigger it grew. I watched others I knew come out and start living their lives, having relationships, going on adventures together, but I was always watching through the crack in the closet door. Too scared of standing out in the crowd. Too afraid of being different and worried about people not liking me.
For years I’ve wished I could get over this fear and go to pride – and last year I finally made that wish come true.
I pushed past my anxiety and ended up going with a big group of people where I only knew one person (and barely). We went for breakfast before the parade began. It was an all-American burger joint which serves up proper breakfast complete with thick pancakes and refillable filter coffee. I was excited by the rainbows decorating the doorway and the rainbow balloon arch outside but, when I met my friend’s group of friends I felt like I had way too many rainbows on (all I had was a top with a tiny rainbow on it and the words the “future is love”). They were all dressed ‘normally’ and I felt out of place. I won’t lie, my heart sank a little bit. It wasn’t until one of the guys’ sisters walked in wearing head to toe rainbow and glitter and everyone started exclaiming how they wished they’d made more of an effort that I started to relax.
The march began and we tagged along, enjoying seeing countless dogs dressed in rainbow bandannas. We ended up behind the co-op funeral care band which played about three songs on rotation for the entirety. If that isn’t a story I don’t know what is!
The march was slow but scanning the crowd, reading the banners, kept reminding me of just how important it still is. Yes, it’s less of a protest these days in this country but we’re still fighting for the rest of the world to be afforded the same rights we sometimes take for granted here. And we still aren’t treated equally so we still need to fight for us too.
At the end of the march one of the stewards told us that the stage was to our right or “everywhere else is bars”. Obviously we headed straight to a bar before they all started to get too crowded. The rest of the day was spent drinking, dancing, watching the acts on the stage and wandering around the stalls picking up freebies.
There was a comfortable atmosphere and I felt truly happy and content. There was no worrying about having to weigh up the pros and cons of coming out to anyone I spoke to because they all knew. There were no shocked exclamations of “but you don’t look like a lesbian” from new people I got chatting to because it was accepted that I was. There was no going over and over what I was about to say in my head, choosing my words carefully in case someone I was talking to wasn’t accepting.
Aside from that I loved the fun and the care-free attitude. Vodka Revs was in full Saturday night mode at lunchtime and people had brought their young kids along for the ride. There were street parties, great music, drinking and dancing. A personal highlight was when a girl I had never met before deemed me trustworthy enough to look after her doughnuts whilst she took a selfie with a drag queen on stilts. This is the day that I have been waiting to experience for my whole life.
This is why we still need Pride. No, in this country it is less of a protest than when it first began but it’s still a place to celebrate us and the challenges we have overcome as a community. It’s a place to let people who may be fearful and not accepting of themselves that they are loved and okay as they are. We need pride to have a day where we can surround ourselves in our community and feel a part of something – especially in a society that still isn’t built to fully accept us or make us feel like we belong.
We still need Pride so, at the very least, we have a day when we can be (almost) free of homophobia and a day to allow our hearts to be filled will love and acceptance. I for one have never felt so accepted and I’m now a little bit readier to fully embrace who I am.
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