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. Today we spoke to Topher Taylor from Global Brand Clone Zone.
Here’s what he had to say.
GLL: What does Pride mean to you?
Topher: Pride, to me, is the acceptance and celebration of a part of my identity that truly scared me as a child. I was raised feeling scared of the reaction to my sexuality and effeminate nature – so to finally be part of a community where it’s ‘the norm’ and sometimes celebrated makes me feel proud. I used to watch David Bowie and Sylvester on music TV and think “they’re like me” but I was never brave enough to ‘do it’, so to have overcome it makes me feel incredibly proud.
It also means that I take time to understand people in our community that are different from me, whether it be gender preference or their own identity. I think with all that’s going on right now, I put a lot of thought and energy into supporting my trans siblings. They are under constant dissection, scrutiny, and attacks – so I try to have their backs. The first people that ‘welcomed’ me into the queer scene were trans sex workers in Soho, so I’ll always have that special space in my heart for trans people.
GLL: Tell us about your first Pride experience, what & where was it?
Topher: Mine was actually working at Clonezone Soho when I was 20-years-old, back in 2009. I have to be completely honest here, I’d had mixed experiences with cis gay men growing up, so I was never sure if I’d be welcome at Pride without drama or ‘bitchiness’. But it was amazing, and the shop was in the middle of all of the chaos.
When you take away the corporate branding and the alcohol-centric promotions, the streets of Soho really are exciting on that day if you’re with the right people. You’re surrounded by people who have lived similar experiences to you and there’s a comfort in that.
GLL: What is your favourite part of Pride?
Topher: I love being able to hire sex workers, put some money in their pockets, get them some exposure – when they are modeling at Clonezone Soho and posting with customers/visitors to Old Compton Street. Every year, my models make all of the hard work ‘worth it’ and I love their company. I love seeing them celebrated like that. It’s important to understand the strides that sex workers made for the LGBTQ+ community in our history. I will always celebrate them and always find ways to support their careers. Pride is a perfect opportunity.
GLL: Do you have a favourite Pride memory?
Topher: Pride 2019 when I was invited by Pride in London (via Jason Reid of Royal Vauxhall Tavern and Ash Kotak of AIDS Memory UK) to open the parade in support of trans people, where teams of us carried signs. We were the first thing all 1.5 million visitors into Central London saw that day. Our sign read GWithTheT, and I saw the faces of young trans teenagers light up as they clocked what the opening ‘float’ was – it was the community telling them that we are here for them. At one stage, I saw some kid start to cry and it made me burst into tears. Thankfully I had fake Louis Vuitton sunglasses on to hide my tears.
GLL: Do you think Pride is still important?
Topher: I mean, look at what’s happened with that ‘other’ scene magazine and the LGB Alliance. It’s just one drop in an ocean of hate aimed at trans people. I came into this community WITH trans people, and I plan to stay that way. So much of the rhetoric is the same as homophobia was decades ago. It disturbs me that people don’t see that – but I guess they don’t want to.
There are still people (young and old) struggling with who they are, and Pride serves as a beacon of light and self-expression. I hope that those poor people who sit at home, scared of their identities, whether they’re in the UK or not, see us doing what we do and feel a little bit of hope.
You can shop at Clonezone through their stores in Soho or Earls Court, London and also in Birmingham and Manchester or online at Clonezone.co.uk