I had promised myself that I would keep myself out of this discussion. I figured there are enough people out there to justify the answer to the much repeated question “But why do people need pride parades?”.
My immediate circle, I thought, knew why we celebrate Pride and they did go to the parades as well. Or so I thought. Turns out, it’s more complicated than that.
I will spare you the historical retrospection, on the very valid and very serious reasons why we came to celebrate pride month, and I will not try to add to what everyone else is saying on why this is important and why we should keep doing it for a long, long time.
Instead, I want to talk about my first pride.
As a teenager, I was a late bloomer. It took a terrible heartbreak and a year away from home to come in terms with who I was and embrace it.
I was 19, and I was just starting to discover myself.
Early June, the city was buzzing and I wanted to be part of that buzz. Problem was, I had no one to go with. The one friend I thought I could take with me had a guest and other plans. And so, I decided to go alone. After all, it was a huge parade, no one would notice.
It was early afternoon and people were starting to gather. I didn’t own a flag at the time, no rainbow shoe-laces, no pride t-shirts, not even a single pin to wear my pride. I decided to go with a plain blue GAP t-shirt, the only clothing material I had close to something that would make me feel I belonged and hoped I could fit in somewhere in the crowd (after all, GAP means “Gay And Proud, doesn’t it? :P).
Soon after, the parade was about to start. I was standing somewhere high enough to be able to see the huge rainbow flag unfold and hear the people from the speakers announcing the start accompanied with cheering and dancing and loud music.
At that moment, I teared up.
I ran straight into the crowd marching and singing and dancing with the people around. Not a single person gave me weird looks. Some people danced with me and chanted with me and smiled at me.
There were people with dogs, with children on their shoulders, people holding hands. So many people holding hands.
I had never seen so many people hold hands, and there they were. Altogether in this giant celebration of love, where no one was left out and no one was frowned upon and everyone was happy, and I felt… I belonged.
I didn’t know these people, I had no idea who they were. But we all were part of something bigger. Something that had the power to protect me from all the cruelty in the world I knew. All the “don’t destroy your life” from my family, all the “it’s just a phase” from my friends, all the “you’re not normal” from my self.
I was there and I was strong and the people were dancing and it was colourful and it was pretty and it was loud and, I was proud.
And I felt there was hope.
For a better world, for a world that understands, that wants to understand, that after all, we are all people, and we just want to live. Be happy, if possible. Not alone, not afraid, but together.
I ended up holding a part of a huge banner most of the parade, I have no idea who gave it to me. When the parade ended, I went home with more pins and more rainbow patterned things and more hope that I ever had before.
For me, as I’m sure for many others as well, my first Pride was the time I realised in a very intense and beautiful way that I’m not alone. And that, I might deserve to be happy after all.
So, don’t take that away from people.
Let them celebrate. Let them love. Let them be who they want to be, even just for a day. Let them be happy. Because after all, isn’t that what we all strive for?
Happy Pride month! :)