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