In the Name of Love

I have a confession to make: I love gay pride.

It’s a big problem that many of the more established prides have become commercialised and depoliticised. When Coca Cola hire a drag queen, adorn her in red-and-white finery and place her atop a float,* it doesn’t mean that they give a damn about queer people – except insofar as we represent a bunch of vodka drinkers in search of a mixer.

I understand – and share – the concerns about pride being reduced to a street party, a spectator sport, or an extended ad break aimed at the pink pound.

But you know what? Despite all that, I just love being in a crowd of queers.

I was at London Pride this weekend, and I had a blast. I found it exhilarating to be in the midst of tens of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning people, and their allies. And there where times when I felt genuinely proud.

I felt proud on the tube at the beginning of the day, when there were moments of mutual recognition between me and others making their way to the parade (who weren’t all easy to spot as the guy sporting a kilt, false eyelashes, and very little else).

I felt proud when I saw the parents of a young family wearing tops that read “Mum no.1” and “Mum no. 2,” and when the South London Lesbian Mums’ group marched by with their children.

I felt proud of the guy in the bright purple “Christian and Proud” T-shirt, calmly reading his bible next to the aggressive street preacher attempting to use that religion as an excuse for his homophobia (I’m not a theologian, but I get the impression that Jesus was quite a nice bloke, and pretty into people treating one another fairly… just sayin’).

I felt proud of the spirit of camaraderie in the ridiculously long queues for bars, and bathrooms in bars, inSoho.

I felt proud when my friend pointed out that he’d seen more people with visible disabilities in one afternoon than he had seen in gay venues his whole life.

I felt proud every time I saw public displays of affection, which was often, and proud to kiss my beautiful girlfriend.

I felt proud of the diversity of semi-naked bodies being proudly displayed on the streets of London.

I felt proud to be cheering the queer muslims and queer jews who had joined together to do the parade in double-decker bus.

I felt so proud of the teenagers determinedly making out in front of the meager showing of objecting (and objectionable) homophobes.

These moments touched me, and each one, in its way, felt political.

*as witnessed at Toronto Pride 2008

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