Last year I nearly had a small heart attack when a concerned citizen sent round a frantic email saying a very big pride event was going to have to cancel its parade because not enough people had volunteered to be stewards for the floats. Luckily, the person had got the misinformed end of the proverbial stick, and there was nothing to worry about at all.
But why did I care so much about pride? I thought about it and I thought about it some more. Pride is important for a number of reasons. It reminds us what we’ve fought for. It reminds us what we’ve gained and what (and whom) we’ve lost on the way. And it also shows the outside world that we’re here, that we can be a formidable force when we get together—even if we are just throwing shapes to Kylie’s latest record. It’s an important part of making sure we’re not forgotten.
It’s also less overtly political than that. At pride I can see all my friends. I can be together with my friends and family and celebrate our togetherness. I can celebrate the fact that as a kid at school, growing up gay, it was never exactly easy. But with the help of my friends, my family and my community, I pulled through and became the person I am today. I can celebrate the fact that every time someone called me a queer in the street, I didn’t let it get me down, and I’m still here, and yes, I’m still queer.
Pride also raises money for good causes. It raises money for gay men’s health charities. It raises money for the local gay scene, which serves us, protects us and gives us a space to be exactly who we want to be, when we want to be it.
When people are getting killed all over the world just for being gay, it shows how important it is not to be complacent. Even if you forget how hard those people have it, and how hard many of the older people in our community also had it over in this country, pride is a time to remember and count our blessings.
It seems every city is getting to grips with its gay heart and is throwing a pride. Oldham, York, Huddersfield—each has its own form of gay pride.
Speaking of Oldham Pride, Manchester’s queer poet Dominic Berry said: ‘There are those of us whose lives, thankfully, have become less restrained by homophobia and queer bashing, but that must never make us forget there are others whose lives are made living hells by continuing discrimination and prejudice. Pride is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come whilst remembering how far there still is left to travel.’
That resonates with me and the rest of the staff at Bent. There are those out there who, quite rightly, say pride is often an excuse to get pissed. But then so is St Patrick’s Day and New Year’s Eve and your birthday. But in getting drunk, do you celebrate those things any less? Are the Irish any less proud of being Irish because they’ve gone out and had a good time? Are you not a year older if you get drunk and forget your birthday? Of course you are. The same goes with pride. We each have our own way of celebrating it, but in doing so, we’re unified, even if it’s only once a year, and isn’t that the real point?
More importantly, pride is about choice: it’s about the choice to celebrate, to march, to make a statement, to dress however the hell you want to dress—even if it’s just for one day.