If someone told me two years ago that I would going to my first proper Pride event in 2018, I would have stared at them in utter disbelief. I have always avoided such events, almost scared of what they hold.
I have never been what one would maybe describe as a “scene queen”. As you may know through the years of our friendship, I have always been a nest builder. I like the relationships and the setting up home with the person I love followed by spending the years growing old together, in our own little bubble. I always had this view that Pride was about getting as drunk as possible whilst kissing as many strangers as you could. I judged something that I had absolutely no idea about. It wasn’t until my twenties that I had understood the reasons behind Pride; the marching for freedom and the remembering those who were taken from us during the fight for equality. I think it’s such a shame that we are not educated on the reason why we stand as freely as we do today. It’s sad that unless we seek the answers we will never truly possess them, forever wondering how we got here on this rainbow road.
Pride almost felt like a seedy event to me, it was something I was afraid of, something that I never wanted to be a part of. It was something that I had completely misunderstood.
I have never had gay friends, I have never been part of an infamous gay Twitter clique and I have certainly failed myself in building up relationships with those who truly understand the journey of accepting sexuality. After all, we are brothers and sisters who stand together, we are a family. Maybe it was my own warped view on family that meant I held back, but I always stayed two steps behind the united front.
I always felt like I was too fat, too ugly and too awkward to be at an event surrounded by people who are the same as me. It took me many years to step foot inside a ‘gay club’. It took me a long time to understand that we don’t actually go there to kiss boys and exchange numbers – we actually go to have fun and create memories in a space that feels safe.
2018 has been about stepping outside of my box. I have tried so many new things that weren’t necessarily in my comfort zone and I have been learning more about the person I am on the inside. Its been a brilliant year so far. 20Gayteen as it’s now become known, has been an intense year for the LGBT+ community. Pride events have seemed to be swelling with love and fun (Britney at Brighton, anyone?!) and we as a collective have been standing united, closer than ever. I began to get the itch to attend Pride when the season began, but I pushed it to one side.
Through a strange course of events, however, I ended up working in Manchester on the bank holiday weekend, when the final “big” Pride of the summer takes place. An old friend from university reached out and asked if I was attending. It planted a seed in me, and within two hours I had booked a ticket for the Sunday. I then spent the next twelve hours regretting my decision, deciding that it was a waste of money. I had pockets of friends and acquaintances that were attending, but I felt terrible intruding on their already set plans. I told myself I wasn’t going.
For those of you who don’t know, my “9-5” job is in a hotel, and whilst covering the Manchester hotel on Saturday evening, I watched groups of people pass through reception, dripping with glitter, wearing what they wanted and laughing within their groups. I could feel the love radiating from them; it was infectious.
I pushed my fears aside on Sunday morning and I jumped on the tram to meet my friend and his boyfriend. I hadn’t seen my friend since we graduated a couple of years back; and I had never met his boyfriend. Upon meeting them, we exchanged hugs and introductions and headed towards the infamous Canal Street area. It took me half an hour to realise that I wasn’t nervous. I was soaking up the atmosphere and the overpriced alcohol and I was really enjoying myself.
Somewhere between Samantha Mumba and Rita Ora, I lost myself in the moment. I allowed myself to soak up the atmosphere and I felt like I was truly breathing in my surroundings. For the first time, possibly ever, I felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be, doing what I was meant to be doing and being what I was put on this earth to be; myself.
It was as I danced against the sweat covered wall with my friend and some strangers in the early hours of Monday morning that I looked around and saw nothing but incredibly beautiful people all feeling the exact same as me. Every single person in the event area of Manchester Pride felt love, acceptance and inclusivity. Not a single person was looking out of place. There was nobody hiding themselves in the corner, ashamed of who they were. Nobody was staring at me, nobody was judging me for my sweaty hair and my impeccable dance moves. There was not a single person who made me feel inadequate, ugly or like I didn’t belong.
My fellow community, I want to apologise to you. I want to take a step back and admit that I was wrong to judge you. I was wrong to shy myself away from the events that allow us to celebrate who we are with the people that share our stories.
You see, I attended my first Pride event last weekend and I absolutely lived my best life. I felt like I was part of the community for one day. Hate and prejudice just wasn’t possible in my circle, I cannot explain it in any other way, it was just impossible to feel any sort of negativity.
What I am trying to say is that PrideFear (as I have now penned it), is real. It is terrifying, but if you take a step back, swallow that fear and see the moment for what it really is then it is absolutely marvellous. You don’t need to be popular within the community. You don’t need to have the most defined body and perfect hairline. You don’t need to be at a certain level of sociability. All you need to be is yourself. It has taken me so many years to realise this. It has taken me the longest time to understand that I, as I stand today, am good enough to be part of it all. If you ever feel like you want to attend a Pride event but have a case of the ol’PrideFear, then I only suggest you find your happy medium, look for your comfort zone because believe me, it is there somewhere.
If you don’t think you can face the full weekend, try and attend a parade. If you don’t feel like you have enough friends then reach out to those around you. If you feel like you aren’t pretty enough, tall enough or perfect enough then believe me, you absolutely are.
If you want to get as drunk as possible whilst kissing as many strangers as you can, then go for it. What I’ve learned this week is that Pride is all about being who you want to be.
My final tip would be to refrain from doing what I have done for so long; overthink. If you take a deep breath, book your tickets and let your time pan out how it is meant to pan out then you will enjoy yourself, and please, learn all of this a lot quicker than I did. Ease your foot off the brakes and roll until you are ready to accelerate. (It took me approximately forty-five minutes to accelerate, thank you Samantha Mumba being the queen of key changes).
I will be attending the full weekend of Manchester Pride next weekend, this time with glitter on my cheeks and a smile proudly cemented on my face; if you want to come along then please holla, I will show you my dad dancing and I can almost guarantee a kebab and a heart to heart debriefing at the end of the night.
Thank you to those who made my first official pride one of the best moments in my life.
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