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Why you are some­thing to be proud of

The first time I can re­mem­ber be­ing proud was when I was cast as one of the Three Kings in my school na­tiv­ity play. Not only was it a much big­ger role than I was used to (in our pro­duc­tion of The Three Lit­tle Pigs, I’d played one of the walls of the straw house), but I got to be a lit­eral drag king. Which, as some­one rarely seen not wear­ing a Bat­man cos­tume, was some­thing I was into at the time.

That sense of achieve­ment paired with know­ing I could put my­self on dis­play as ex­actly who I wanted to be (a slightly un- PC ver­sion of a Mid­dle East­ern monarch, ap­par­ently, but let’s not get into that…) was not dis­sim­i­lar to Pride with a cap­i­tal P – gay Pride. But it would be some time be­fore I would learn to ap­ply that feel­ing to my sex­u­al­ity. At that time, aged about five, I al­ready knew I liked other girls in a way that you weren’t sup­posed to talk about. I’d no­ticed that be­ing around some girls in my class made me feel any­thing but proud. And that the woman in the Levi’s ad who emerges from a fly­ing saucer in a sil­ver bra and a pair of very high waisted jeans made me feel down­right ashamed.

It was only when my mum sup­ported me when I came out – aged nine – that the shame be­gan to wither. It would be nice to think that my jour­ney to full- on Pride didn’t in­volve other peo­ple’s val­i­da­tion that I wasn’t, as I’d some­how been led to be­lieve, a sort of abom­i­na­tion. But I’ve be­come al­most ob­sessed by how lucky I was (and still am) to have such un­wa­ver­ing sup­port from my fam­ily and friends. I still won­der whether I could’ve learned to ac­cept my­self if no one ever gave me per­mis­sion to.

I went to my first (Lon­don) Pride when I was 17. It rained. The streets were shiny and al­most slicked-back look­ing, and, above all, noisy. When it’s piss­ing it down, rain­bow flags look even more de­fi­ant. All these queers, my­self in­cluded, had cho­sen this soggy mess over so­fas, tea, or any­thing re­sem­bling com­fort.

Was I Proud yet? I’m not sure. It oc­curred to me that, see­ing as I didn’t choose to be gay, if I was go­ing to be proud of that part of me, I might as well be proud of breath­ing or hav­ing fin­gers. Even­tu­ally, it dawned on me that you don’t have to come out as some­one with fin­gers. Pride, I sup­pose, isn’t about the ar­bi­trary jum­ble of na­ture and nur­ture that make you you. It’s about how you wear that jum­ble. Be­cause, even in a Lon­don lib­eral bub­ble like mine, com­ing out was ter­rify- ing. And that’s the part I’m proud of.

And when you’re queer, you spend pretty much your whole life com­ing out. When your sex­u­al­ity or gen­der iden­tity is some­thing you re­veal, in­ten­tion­ally or oth­er­wise, to new peo­ple – some­times on a daily ba­sis – isn’t that a sort of mini Pride? Some­times it’s hard to feel like you’re not on your own per­sonal pa­rade. If only I could get Bar­clays to spon­sor me wear­ing denim shirts and hold­ing my girl­friend’s hand in pub­lic…

In an ideal world, of course, we wouldn’t have to be proud. If be­ing LGBTQ was on the same so­cial ac­cept­abil­ity level as breath­ing and hav­ing fin­gers, our pa­rades would be pretty dis­mal. The rain­bow flag would have to go, for starters, as, in this utopia where no one ques­tions any­one’s sex­u­al­ity or gen­der, it would seem a lit­tle hy­per­bolic. I’m not sure we’re there yet, though. Or any­thing near it, re­ally. And, while we wait for big­otry (along with use of fos­sil fu­els and voice­mail mes­sages) to die out com­pletely, we might as well en­joy Pride. And, frankly, be proud of be­ing Proud. Proud like straw walls turned na­tiv­ity drag kings.

Even in a Lon­don lib­eral bub­ble like mine, com­ing out was ter­ri­fy­ing

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