Pride. What does it mean? It’s a word that rolls off many tongues to represent everything from personal struggles, identity, heritage and culture, nationality, faith, and most commonly a personal feeling of accomplishment and achievement.
Mention ‘Pride Weekend’ and immediately everyone thinks of Gay Pride, these amazingly wonderful, visually enticing and tantalisingly bright Mardi-Gras style carnival parades that take place annually in cities around the world. Not me. When I stood amongst the thousands of people who converged on Birmingham this weekend, I didn't see it as just a celebration of gay identity. I certainly didn't see it as an attempt, acknowledgement or celebration of the acceptance of the gay and lesbian community, although I don't claim that everyone attends with hostility either.
|Angela and Jinny|
There are people who use Pride as a tool to suggest and promote acceptance and integration while most just want to celebrate being comfortable with who they are and there are also people who benefit from Pride in developing a greater understanding of the community itself, but I still stand by my view that this is not the main purpose of Pride.
The ‘pride’ in this festival is something a lot deeper and something much wider than a rainbow flag, people in drag and gigolo-boys in glitter-cowboy hats. Okay, I won’t deny that I did actually see a ‘cowboy’, a ‘native American’, along with a ‘builder’ and I did hear ‘YMCA’ being blasted across Hurst Street but there were a few surprises too, even for me.
I saw a lot of ordinary-looking people - that is, without elaborate costumes, gay and straight, people of all races and all ages - just relaxing, enjoying the weekend and having fun.
I saw adults, children, families, couples and pets. I saw black and white and young and old alike. I saw a trustee of a major city mosque cheer with glee as the procession of dancers and drag queens paraded into the heart of Hurst Street.
I saw Sikh men with beards and turbans browsing through the stalls and loving the atmosphere, I saw Muslim girls with hijabs shouting ‘Gay, Muslim and Proud’ as part of Asian lesbian project SAFRA, there were black and Asian youngsters, people of all backgrounds and origins, OAPs, students - heck, I even saw Darth Vader!
I saw the rainbow but not just in the infamous flags and the balloons and attire, I saw all the colours of the rainbow in the faces of all those who were there and the glow that beamed from their smiles, which seemed to have even outshone the sun that day, truly suggested to me that Pride isn't just about the norms we expect from Gay Village.
It’s not all camp, butch or straight-acting. Gay people are a mixed bunch just like most communities and although they may not be a single ethnic, religious or cultural grouping, they ARE still a community. And no-one should feel guilty for overlooking this fact because, the truth is, it may be news to many in the lesbian and gay community too.
As for pride, it’s something for more than just the LGBT community, it wouldn't be the same without everyone else and there are lots of people in attendance who have no lesbian or gay acquaintances at all but they want to join in and have fun, is that wrong?
In all my experience of attending cultural or diverse festivals, Pride is the only event where I have really seen such a diverse range of people from so many social and ethnic backgrounds. To have streets crammed with so many different people all enjoying themselves and accepting each other is, to me, what pride represents.
I'm sure that most would agree that, aside from the Notting Hill Carnival, Birmingham Pride probably attracts the biggest mix of people into one place anywhere in the UK. It also provides something for all and something that everyone can relate to.
I haven't seen this as evident in other city festivals like St Patrick’s Day, Vaisakhi or St. George’s Day. There’s always sections of the community who do not attend for fear of not being welcome. Sure, people may not attend who disagree with Pride but no-one feels unwelcome. That doesn't happen with Pride - its rainbow gates are open to all. Everyone is invited and just about everyone turns up.
|Richard and Gemma|
I know there are a lot of people who are going to disagree with a lot of what I've written here but a lot of effort goes into Pride every year and I think people should look a little into what makes it so special rather than just what makes it stand out.
Whether you're the guy who starts making his two-headed Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy costume in early January, or the hilarious stage character who has to rush through five costumes and platform boots in half an hour at the Wellington whilst screaming ‘he's trying to kill me!’ or just someone who got on the bus and went to see the parade, Pride is about you and you are Pride. Enjoy it, love it and keep those colours flying.
Hmmm...maybe I'll join the procession next year - I could go as Chewbacca, no, maybe Frodo - I think I'd like that. Depends on the theme though. Then again, I've got lots of really awful clothes in my wardrobe, maybe I’ll just go as Graham Norton.