Pulse nightclub memorial
Lockdown has brought a few new things into my life and one of those is a new friend in the US. This morning I blearily checked my phone and saw that Congress has voted to make Pulse nightclub a national memorial on my friend’s timeline. My heart leapt; the world came into focus with colour. What a long, and tortuous, road we have travelled from that dark morning of 12th June 2016. I remember waking to the news of an horrific shooting in a gay nightclub. That final, vile, act of a man who could not allow others to love.
I have written before of how that shooting, and the memorial we held in Southampton afterwards was our turning point. When colour began to return to our world. The genesis of Southampton’s own Pride and the soft beginning of Chrysalis’ transition to the charity we are today.
The shame of the 80’s
I grew up in the 80’s, the world of Mary Whitehouse and Margaret Thatcher, the world of denial. A world where the greatest game of the tabloids was to “out” people and shame them. A world where HIV became as terrifying as teen pregnancy, a life sentence. My words and thoughts as a teenage were filtered through section 28, through my own family’s lack of understanding of sexuality and the diversity of experience. Some of my bogeymen were real, others the result of my own imagination. In this I suspect I was not unlike most of my peers; sheltered, naïve and cruel in my unknowing.
My first gay experience was with my best friend at university. It was fun, it was right, but it was terrifying. I was not ready to explore what that enjoyment really meant to me and to my friend. I was not the person of words and confidence I am today.
How being affirmed freed me
Fast forward to my 30s when I met my partner, the co-parent of my child. My partner has many fine qualities but the one which stands out the most is their commitment to authenticity. They nourished the secrets inside of me until I was able to let them flower. My secrets no longer hidden and shameful but an intrinsic part of me. Through them I found my pride and with them I attended my first Pride.
Pride in being visible
I am a performer, I am an extrovert, I love to be seen and in being seen I am nourished. If lockdown has taught me one thing it is that I need people to thrive. More than anything I need people like me so when I found that people like me did Pride, I was so excited! My first Pride, and it would be a Pride with fellow Queer Alternatives. A chance to dress up, to party and for the first time ever to really feel like I was “out”. Pride for me is about being visible in all my authenticity. Pride for me is a party.
There is a feeling when everything is going well, that feeling is euphoria. Too often we talk about the struggles of being queer, of being trans. Everywhere we hear “dysphoria”, and the companions: “denial”, “discrimination” and “hate”. Pride smashes those words to the ground. Pride is a safe space, a space of euphoria, a space where I, you, everyone can be their authentic, loving self. Their self-loving self.
Pride is different
When viewed from the outside Pride can appear a welter of colour and glitter. A frivolity of barely covered flesh. When viewed from the inside Pride can appear corporate, too much money, floats with huge generators drowning out the walking groups with our little amplifiers. Pride means something different to all of us. Pride can be educational, a place to find out our history or to seek support.
Pride is everyone’s
Pride is something different to everyone and Pride is everyone’s. If you have never been to Pride, I urge you to go. Share in the euphoria of authenticity. Open your mind and your heart to the feeling of inclusion and feel included yourself.
The sad truth of denial
After my eyes focused, I went downstairs and enacted my parenting duties before making coffee. Coffee in hand I went back to Facebook, and I was saddened to see a “straight pride” meme on someone’s wall. There is no pride in claiming discrimination when you are in the majority. There is no pride in shaming others for their diversity. There certainly is no pride in blowing homophobic dog whistles especially during Pride month.
Being an ally means taking risks
Doing this job means I must confront my fears and I had to challenge the meme. I had to speak out because I must do my bit to make space safe. To be visible for those who cannot be. It is hard to speak out against friends, even harder when it is on their wall.
In my speaking out, in my challenging, I am unlikely to change that person’s mind. No one likes being called out. Shame burns and it is shameful to be told, as an adult, that you are wrong. I am sorry for the pain I might have caused; I wish it could have been otherwise.
Pride empowers me
In speaking up against hate I drew from the strength of my authenticity. The privilege of position, of education, give me the words to speak, but it is my heart which powers them. My heart which is nourished through pride in myself, through the knowledge of the power of authenticity. I know that the only honest way forward is for everyone to become the best version of themself.
I am still working on how to have more open and honest conversations with people. Challenging myself engage sooner, to develop shared understanding. I celebrate my new friend in the US, but I do not turn my back on the old friend. I will always be here if they want to find out what all the fuss is about. When they are ready to feel euphoria then I will take them to Pride, together perhaps we can heal the damage of the 80’s.