I live in a Scottish town, not a small one, but small enough that I wouldn’t feel comfortable holding hands walking down the street. That can be a strange thing to explain to someone, that in certain places, I don’t feel comfortable holding hands with my other half, and that one of those places is my hometown. Don’t get me wrong, I love where I’m from and it’s part of who I am, it’s just not about to hold it’s first Pride parade anytime soon. That being said, the rest of the world is.
As I write this, Edinburgh is holding its pride celebrations (It’s also the Queen’s birthday, but I don’t think the two are related) and in a few months time London, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle will have theirs. Social media feeds and timelines fill up with colour, rainbow icons are published, big brands adopt the flag on their products, and everything is #LoveIsLove . All of this is amazing and we’re lucky to live in a time where it’s accepted and treasured.
I have a different relationship with the word Pride. It took me a bit of time to get comfortable in my own skin growing up. Once I felt like I had a handle on things (not that I think we ever really do) I began to feel proud of who I was and my sexuality. (For reference my orientation is fried food and Sci-Fi). While my own self-regard was assured, my relationship with Pride and the wider LGBTQ+ Community was not.
My first experience of a pride march was going to Glasgow with my mum while I was still in my teens, around 15/16 years old. We were going through it for the ritual Saturday shopping trip when we happened upon the march. We watched and clapped along for a bit then continued with the days’ shopping. During a standard tea and cake break at the John Lewis cafe (to make us look posher than we were), I asked if I could go back and see more of the celebrations and then meet up with her later on. She was fine with it and I went. The march was done by this point so I just walked around the stalls and saw some on-point performances from Queens and Drag Queens alike. My overriding memory was being really nervous, so nervous I don’t think I talked to anyone. I met back up with mum afterwards and she asked; “Did you like it?” “I think so?” I replied.
However, I didn’t let that nervous experience put me off, I went back the following year and ventured to other pride celebrations around the UK after that. But I still didn’t get it. Why? I understood the history, the origins of Pride, the flag and the politics of equal rights. I just didn’t know why I was there.
Compared to some, I was lucky. I had a supportive family and a school with a “we’re not taking any crap” policy on bullying so coming out was easier than most, but I never realised that until I started meeting people who hadn’t had it as easy. I was one of the founding members of the Falkirk LGBT youth group, or as my family lovingly called it ‘Glee Club’ and it was the first time I stepped out of my own little bubble. I began to realise who the modern day Pride was for. The boy who was made homeless. The girl who ran away. The boy who was put in the hospital.
I’m happily proud of who I am. But I reserve Pride with a capital P for them and for anyone else like them. The LGBTQ+ Community can be fractured, and I believe healthy discussion is great, but I also think we can unite behind the Idea that everyone’s story is different and the one’s whose stories are tougher than others should be able to look at Pride and see hope. It’s a celebration and a protest, the two are not mutually exclusive. That’s my kind of Pride.