August 5, 2018

Why Pride Matters - or at least, why it matters to me

Why Pride Matters - or at least, why it matters to me

On Saturday, I visited Brighton for Pride. I went there with my employer and the workplace LGBT+ network, my fiancé, friends who were LGBT+, and friends who weren't.

It's hard to describe a Pride event as large as Brighton to someone who hasn't been before. We joined a large parade wearing t-shirts provided by work, along with copious amounts of glitter, face paint, whistles, banners, a couple of drag queens, etc. I also added fairy wings to my outfit, for effect.

The parade was a couple of miles long, right through Brighton town centre. Every inch of the route from the start to finish was packed with people. They filled the pavement, backing right up to the buildings behind. People climbed onto bus shelters, phone boxes and window ledges to see over the crowd. People would be seen hanging out first and second floor windows in some places. The crowd was so incredibly diverse - people of all ages, ethnicities, abilities, genders and sexualities.
The most powerful thing about this incredible crowd is that they were all cheering, waving, clapping, smiling - every form of positive emotion was pouring out onto the streets of Brighton in an overwhelming, almost intoxicating atmosphere of joy.

If I were to go back in time, I'd love to tell 14 year old Chris that one day he'd marching through Brighton under a pride flag, wearing fairy wings, holding hands with his fiancé, holding a banner for his employer along with friends and colleagues as thousands of people cheered on.
I think it would probably have helped a lonely, scared, insecure teenager know that one day, things were going to be fine.

Some people say that we don't need Pride in the UK. We've got equal rights now - we should live in quiet dignity and not make a scene about it. I couldn't disagree more with these people. Firstly, equality is not a done deal. Our trans & non-binary friends are still fighting for the very right to live their authentic lives. They face humiliation for things as simple as using the toilet, or trying to call up a company to pay a bill. They need our support more than ever - and is there a better way than taking to the streets to reminding people we are still here and we are not done yet?

Secondly, those that hate us for who we are will never be quiet, nor dignified. Even on the very day of Brighton Pride, walking through a shopping centre, a passer-by yelled ‘fag’ at me.

I'm very lucky - 1 in 5 LGBT+ people, and 2 in 5 trans people have experienced hate crimes in the last 12 months. What's worse is, the majority of these crimes go unreported, especially amongst young people. If you shout abuse at someone because of their gender identity or sexuality, it is a crime.

For far too many people growing up LGBT+, it's too easy to hear and see the hate. To hear the comments in the schools. To see the lack of queer representation in TV in cinema. To witness their very right to exist being debated in 2018. It's too easy to think that they themselves are the problem, not the society around them.
When I go out there and make scene, throw glitter and make some noise, I'm doing it to drown out the noise of those that say I can't. I'm doing it so I can show that love is the way forward, not hate. And that joy can be louder than anger.

One thing that struck me at Brighton was the amount of parents bringing their young children along. But it made me think - how do you explain Pride to a young kid?
The best I came up with is something like this:

For a long time, the rules said that you were only allowed to love certain kinds of people in a certain way. But there were many people that loved others in many different ways. Everyone was very unkind to them, putting them in jail even though they didn't do anything wrong. Eventually, they managed to change the rules and now people are allowed to love who they want. Every year, they like to have a party to remind us that love is more powerful than hate, and that everyone should be allowed to be who they want be.

How would you explain Pride to a child? I'd love to hear your suggestions.