As we near the end of Pride month, we sat down with writer, Joe Stevenson, to ask him about what Pride means to him. Read his article below and don't forget to share the love at Berlin Pride on July 22nd.
To date, I’ve only ever been asked what Pride means to me twice: once when preparing this article, and once on a dreary day back in 2011. And boy, what a difference six years and an education can make.
For those who know me closely, the topic of my sexuality has always been one fraught with confusion, upset and a whole lot of unhappiness. For an unhealthy amount of time after coming out, I felt like being gay was a problem; like I was being punished for something I’d done in a past life (or had yet to do in this one), and wanted so desperately to remain apart from the LGBT community as a result.
For that reason, when the question first came up, on the doorstep of my friend Adam’s house back in university, I only had a negative answer to give. Asked by Adam’s housemate, Mark – a firm believer in Pride, LGBT rights, and himself the product of a very loving same-sex family – if I would be attending Cardiff Pride, I turned my nose up.
I answered quite curtly, that Pride was – to me, at the time – just a chance for people to excuse being excessively drunk and half naked in the street at midday. His reply to this challenged my thinking, and has been something I’ve held onto quite closely as I’ve worked on my relationship with myself:
“Pride is about a community coming together. It’s about gay parents having a day out with their family, friends hanging out together, and just being yourself.”
A few months after that conversation, I found myself in session with a university counsellor, and often thinking about what Mark had said. It dawned on me that perhaps the Pride I was thinking of – the partying, the dressing up, the parades – was not only a stereotype, but also really quite optional. Partying isn’t for everybody, and Pride is much more than just a party.
As I undertook my queer education – reading up on Ginsberg and Turing, watching Paris is Burning and Pride – I came to understand Pride as being so much more than just a glorified street party, or people misbehaving in daylight. Pride – rightly changed from simply ‘Gay Pride’, to show the diversity of our community – is about love and acceptance.
It’s about loving your friends, your family, your community, and yourself. It’s about basking in that love, but also creating a fair share of love. Because when we feel like we belong, and we’re important – and we’re in an environment full of love – we feel like we can be ourselves. And that’s goes so far beyond simply whether we’re gay, straight, bi, trans or other. Think of all the creativity and fun people miss out on for fear of being labelled queer, or falling victim to an idea of toxic masculinity.
Pride is saying “hey, come and be yourself with us because we love you, no matter what – love always wins in this community”. It’s showing the world there’s so much to love, whether it’s waving the flag in the street, sharing queer art, or just establishing a welcoming environment to anyone coming to terms with themselves.
It’s taken me a while to get to this point of understanding. I’m still reluctant to attend a Pride event, admittedly, but that’s something I’m working on. Besides, there’s plenty of other ways to be involved with Pride!
At least now, though, if someone asks me, I can answer honestly and with confidence – and be content with the answer.
To me, Pride is saying “We’re all human. Stop overthinking it, and just love one another instead”.
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