Saturday, 9 June 2012

Gay Pride and why we need it

As is probably quite evident already, by the fact that I write a blog dedicated to it, I take a lot of pride in my bisexuality, and it's a part of my character that I put up there as one of the big parts of my identity, like being a woman, and a member of my family, and a Christian. Big Deal Character Traits. Things I type into 'brief description' boxes.

But recently my BDCTs have come into conflict. More specifically, I have been forced to choose between going to my Nana's 86th birthday (yes, she's a few months younger than the Queen), and taking part in Pride, and also going to church. These all take place on the weekend after my last day of term. Something that has to happen that Saturday, is I have to move out the last of my stuff by 10am, which is pain for my parents. They will then whizz up north to the birthday party (dropping my stuff off at home on the way, I presume) and spend the night before returning the next day.

Automatically, I want, and feel obliged, to go with them. And any other time, I would. I would even be alright with missing church one week (hey, there's got to be at least one decent CofE church in Sunderland that I can go to, right?).

Thing is, it's Pride London weekend. It's World Pride, in fact! Something I've been excited about since moving to London. AND it's the Pride service at church, where we take over - rainbow vestments, rainbow altar cloth, and testimonials from queer members of the church about being queer Christians, as the sermon. How awesome is that? We have a lunch together with the community; we join together with Christians Together At Pride ( and go out to the parade, to quote, "making a powerful statement to the LGBT community that there is support for LGBT Christians and that God loves us with, rather than despite, our sexualities." There are freaking TSHIRTS for pity's sake.

I have been in conflict about it, but my dad has been really sweet. I said during a Skype convo about this that it shouldn't even be an issue, I should automatically be content with going up north. He responded "But obviously going to Pride means enough to you to make it an issue, and therefore, if it means that much, you should go. We'll be going to see your Nana in the summer as well; come then." Thank you God for that man, I love him so much, and I do not deserve him.

I don't know what others will think of this. Essentially, I'm rejecting my frail granny, matriarch of my family, mother to my dear father, in favour of partying it up with the gays, in a street party celebrating...what, exactly?

I can understand straight people might not be sure - especially those who don't have a lot of contact with queer folk, and even those that do but the queer folk they know don't really talk about it/engage with the community - wtf Pride is, and why the gays get a special day (lots, in fact, in individual cities around the UK, and the world), and close the streets of London, for pity's sake. Bastards. And what the hell does LGBT stand for anyway? (I get asked that one a lot).

Makes me chuckle. For one thing, Wikipedia gives a nice summary, if one can be bothered to look - "celebrating LGBT culture. Most pride events occur annually and many take place around June to commemorate the Stonewall riots, a pivotal moment in the modern LGBT rights more accepting cities, the parades take on a festive-like character...floats, dancers, drag queens, and amplified music; but even such celebratory parades usually include political and educational contingents, such as local politicians and marching groups from LGBT institutions of various kinds (that last part includes CTAP)."

Look, we're a minority, we get bullied and abused for who we are. Critics might not be able to understand how joyful it is to have an event devoted to actually celebrating who we are; not a serious demonstration with often demoralising results, or having to go to a specific club separated from the rest of the world, separated from the rest of our lives. We do have our own culture - we were forced to when we were underground, and now we can revel in it publicly, like football fans, patriots, sci-fi fantasy fans, music fans, etc etc, in full view, and inviting the rest of the world to join in, to make it a part of our lives. I can go along with friends who are like me, and meet new people who are also like me.

I also know that many queers don't go in for self-promotion (see earlier reference to those not engaging with the community). That's okay too. Many Christians don't talk about their faith a lot, don't go to church a lot, if ever; football fans enjoy it from the comfort of their sofas without having to chat about it afterwards; sci-fi fans who never go to conventions or talk on forums. Not a worry, I'm one of the latter.

But even though not all queers want or need Pride, there is a want for it, there is a need for it. It's an incredible tool in a world where there are over 70* countries where same-sex relations are prohibited by law, at least 8 of which can lead to the DEATH penalty (sorry for shouty capitals, but it makes me so upset), and even some places where it's legal, there's still a higher age of consent for same-sex relations compared to opposite sex relations. There are only about 5* places IN THE WORLD (sorry again) where same-sex couples can get married, only 10* where they can adopt together.

Throwing massive parties in the streets, beaming pictures of happy, harmless queer people having a good, safe time, around the globe, helps pressure places where queers can't be happy.

It’s all in the title. Pride. In ourselves, each other, in our place in society, in what we contribute, in what makes up special. Other people are special in other ways – singers, models, painters, actors, chess champions, great parents, people passionate about breeding flowers; we’re special because we love in a way the majority don’t, and dammit, there are concerts, catwalks, galleries, awards ceremonies, chess tournaments, Mother’s and Father’s days, garden shows; so we get Pride.

In an unrelated note, I might be going to participate into a professor's research about LGBT individuals’ (age 16-30yrs) understanding of religion, their experiences within the churches and how their religious identity interacts with their sexual identity. I’ll let you know how it goes.

*edit: the figures I have quoted have changed since this post was originally written.

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