To celebrate pride month, throughout June we will be asking “What does Pride mean to you?” We’ve spoken to people from across our vibrant scene and community.
GLL: What does Pride mean to you?
T: Pride for me means dignity, defiance, empowerment, inclusion, belonging, and celebration
GLL: Tell us about your first Pride experience, what & where was it?
T: My first experience of Pride was back in the nineties in London. 1995 springs to mind- I think it was the first Pride that really caught the mainstream. It was sponsored by Virgin I think which at the time was incredible. I remember feeling excited and political, there was and still is such camaraderie at these events, but I have to say that at the time it felt really edgy but emancipatory at the same to me at least. It was like a glimpse of what it could and should be more like every day.
Everyone was sick of the Tories (no change there), HIV was a massive issue, LGBTQ folk had endured Clause 28 for nearly a decade- there were still massive issues around safety and marginality, but there was incredible community cohesion going on, so yes, there was definitely a rising sense of defiance and determination for positive change, you could feel something big in terms of change was going to happen.
It was amazing seeing Queers coming from all over the country, really obscure groups all with beautiful banners. Then the Pride party was in Victoria Park and we walked up from Mile End station and there was this massive sense of anticipation and tension as we passed local pubs with signs that said ‘Regulars Only!’, but then other houses having garden parties- which was such a relief. Oh, I loved the nineties.
GLL: What is your favourite part of Pride?
T: My favourite part of pride is the joy of being able to be who you are or want to be in that moment and without giving a toss what anybody thinks. It’s liberation, it’s freedom, it’s confidence, it’s about not being made to feel like a freak but rather embracing our inner weird without having to explain it because everyone at Pride can relate to being different and that’s what it’s all about.
GLL: Do you have a favourite Pride memory?
T: 1996. New York Pride. Being in the arms of my boyfriend who I had stalked at the local coffee shop where we lived in the Suburbs for about 6 months finally plucking up the courage to ask him on a date and I invited him to Pride. It was a bit of a risk but it worked out beautifully. It transpired to me Mike’s first Pride, but I was always at the Boiler Room (legendary East Village boozer) and knew everyone there who welcomed him with open arms and it was just one big sense of love and belonging to this weird and wonderful extended family.
GLL: Why do you think Pride is still important?
T: I’ve always banged on about Pride or LGBTQ History Month being a 24/7 365 occupation. But as a platform to raise awareness of rights and responsibility, I think Pride offers a necessary stepping stone to community and knowledge, especially in the context of how shit it still is to be Queer in so many countries, let alone certain parts of Britain.
It’s always good to challenge the status quo. There’s always stuff to learn- not least not to take what freedoms we have for granted. There’s still a lot of work to do, so yes Pride is vital to signify change, achievement, and reflection. Frankly, I think that the Cultural History of Pride and LGBTQ rights (as well as all minorities) should be on the national curriculum- like and entirely opposite to Clause 28- at least an hour a week at school to discuss gender, sexuality, and personal expression.