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Days full of gays

by Liz Carr

18th July 2008

In the past year, I've gone from wearing built up shoes to wearing comfortable ones. I've also gone from being a disabled person to being a disabled lesbian. Since 'coming out', I've marched in gay pride parades all around the world, I've filled my home full of rainbow tat and I've become a member of the Dolly Parton fanclub. It's been quite a year.
To celebrate my first anniversary of gayness, I recently went to the pride parade in London. Half a million people revel on the streets of the capital in Britain's biggest and most colourful gay event. The Parade was on July 5 and ran from Baker Street to Trafalgar Square where it culminated in a big rally.

When I asked a steward if there was a wheelchair accessible viewing area, all he could reply was: "We have an access bus. You can go on the access bus. Do you want the access bus?". I didn't want the access bus, I wanted a decent view.

With no platform, I had to barge my way to the front to watch the parade. There were lots of floats, lots of people in fancy dress waving, lots of men in drag prancing, lots of synchronised dancing, lots of steel drumming, lots of cheesy pop songs, lots of balloons being handed out to people like me, lots of condoms being handed out to people not like me and lots and lots of glitterballs.
Man in wheelchair with gay pride flag
I saw disabled 'gayers' marching, wheeling and displaying their pride through an ingenious array of technical aids and adaptions - from using a crutch holder on a wheelchair to support a huge celebratory rainbow flag, to decorating a walking stick with coloured tape and dressing an assistance dog in a little rainbow jacket. Oh the diversity, oh the inclusivity.

A month earlier, on the last leg of my six months travels, I found myself at 'Gaydays at Disney', another big pride event. It took place at Disney World in Florida where the regular theme park goers were joined by over 50,000 gay people, friends and family from all over the world for a weekend of celebration.

Here, rainbow was usurped by another colour. Everyone who was part of the event wore something red. Being tiny, my only official merchandise option was a red Gaydays dog t-shirt which with a few alterations fitted perfectly.

Late morning, my partner and I decided to take a trip on the 'Lesbian Choo Choo'. I wasn't really sure what this meant but we joined the crowds and prepared to take a ride around the theme park with our people. When the train doors opened, the 'ladies in red' made a rush for the back of the train ... but the accessible carriage was at the front!
Gayday attendents, dressed in red, at Disney's kingdom
Before I could say 'Martina Navratilova', the ramp was down and I was on board being securely clamped-in several carriages away from the gay fun - if you'll pardon the expression. I was surrounded by people wearing anything but the colour red and only faintly able to hear the rest of the train happily singing 'Sisters are Doing it for Themselves', it turned into the 'Crip Lesbian Nooo Nooo'.

As I backed down the ramp while geting off the train, the conductor directed me to 'just go straight'. He may have been wearing dungarees with a red handkerchief hanging out of the back pocket but the irony of what he'd just said seemed lost on him.

That experience, and many others during the day, did leave me feeling a little bit like a gay repellent. I had really wanted to go on the log flume with a gaggle of screaming queens and on roller coasters with a bunch of giggling queers but it seemed that whenever we queued for the ramped entrance or the accessible ride, there wasn't a hint of red in the vicinity. I was at a major gay event but somehow not part of it.

This all changed, however, when we met up with some friends and joined the thousands of reds lining the route of the parade, the day's main event. As I sat at the roadside with a great view of the people and floats going past, finally at the heart of the action, an official looking woman wearing Mickey ears and talking into her headset approached me.

Foolishly, I thought that maybe she was coming over to tell me I'd won a Prize or that they wanted me to lead the parade... but sadly no. Instead, she asked me to move to the 'special' cordoned off area for disabled people. I already had a front row view with all my friends around me - why would I want to move. She persisted and tried to coax me away, telling me I could bring my family. She wasn't impressed when I replied: "my family? All 50,000 of them?"
Rainbow coloured Mickey on Liz's wheelchair joystick
The Gayday ended not with a fanfare or fireworks but with a game of bingo which on this night became 'bingay'. I crossed off number after number until I'd won. I couldn't believe my luck as I shouted out 'accessible bungalow' and collected my prize... a rainbow coloured knob with mickey mouse ears on it, meant to go on the top of car aerials, but which now takes pride of place on the joystick of my electric wheelchair.

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