What’s your greatest Pride memory? 10 lez/bi women share theirs
BY ROXY BOURDILLON
I’ll always remember my first Pride. I was fresh off a 32-hour flight to Sydney, but jet-lag be damned, I wasn’t going to miss out on Mardi Gras. I had never seen so many queer people in one place and, God, we looked gorgeous: leather-clad dykes on their Harley Davidson’s, topless tomboys skipping along behind them and glistening Adonises being worshipped like the disco gods they were. It was a magical, euphoric experience, Disneyland for gay grown-ups. Here was the very thing I’d buried, for fear of other people’s reactions, being celebrated in the streets. I had never felt so happy to be a homo. Incredible things happen at Pride. People fall in lifelong love or momentary lust. They come tumbling head-first out of the closet, they march for causes they care deeply about and they express themselves with wild abandon. It’s the one day of the year when we all come together, but despite that heart-warming sense of unity, we each have our own unique Pride experience.
The Pride after my marriage broke down…
In 2015 my wife and I were working away when, after just 15 months of marriage, she told me she didn’t want to be with me any more. So I moved back home to my parents’ house and although extremely heartbroken, decided that rather than wallow, I was going to keep myself busy and try to show everyone I was ok.
It was then that I decided to volunteer to march in the Manchester Pride parade. I gayed myself up (even more so than usual!) with rainbows and a whistle. I got to carry the banner at the front, right behind Sir Ian McKellen, which made my sister-in-law very jealous!
And just for that day, I managed to smile and be a part of something huge, which made me extremely proud. Proud to be gay and proud to be who I am, no matter what happens in my life.
The Pride where I popped the question…
We left home early as Emma had some last-minute organising to do for her time on the stage. As we left I checked I had everything: uniform, cap, money, mobile, a change of clothes and the ring… although I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or where I was going to do it!
On arrival, I spoke to Lucy Day, chair of Liverpool Pride, and said, “Im thinking of proposing to Emma today but Im’ not sure yet”. And so the plotting began.
As the time came, my heart raced thinking about what I should say as I hadn’t rehearsed. But when I went on stage, I seemed to relax and the proposal seemed to be the most natural thing in the world. I remember being overwhelmed by tears when I asked her. Thankfully she said yes so they were tears of joy!
The Pride where she proposed…
Liverpool Pride, 11 o’clock. I was onstage as I had been asked to talk about the importance of coming together as a community.
As I finished, another member of the crowd was invited to the stage – my partner Ann, dressed in her Navy uniform. I was in total shock! She doesn’t do public speaking, so I wondered why she was up on the stage! She talked about how the Come Out Of The Shadows initiative, which saw iconic Liverpool buildings lit in rainbow colours, had resonated with her and that I had helped her with that.
She turned to face me, dropped to one knee and popped the question: “Will you marry me?” Through tears of happiness, I nodded and managed get the word “yes” out! We embraced and then left the stage to receive many hugs of congratulations throughout the weekend!
Pride, God, my family and me…
I had an extremely emotional experience last Pride whilst watching the parade. I was overcome with something I’d never quite felt before. A mixture of both all-encompassing sadness and joy.
A smaller group of the parade came past after a lot of party floats and I’d noticed it was the Christian party, who were all silently walking through the busy parade. A woman from the party proudly held up a sign saying, “Im’ sorry for the way my people treated you” and I could feel myself getting emotional about the beauty of what it meant.
When I was 18, I came out to my family who are all Christian. They weren’t very understanding or kind when I first came out, choosing to believe I’d simply lost my way or been hanging out with the wrong crowd. They thought something was wrong with me and continued to put thoughts in my head, seeding doubt about who I really was and making me worry that, of course, living with a gay lifestyle would mean I’d never have eternal happiness.
Fast-forward to last year, nearly 10 years since I’d told them, and Im’ about to get married with blessings from (most) of them. Some of them have actually come to Pride to show how proud they all are.
I guess, at that moment watching the parade, I thought about how hard my coming out was but also how lucky I had actually been. They had chosen to love me for me and not persecute me for my different beliefs – and that is a truly beautiful thought.
My closeted Pride…
I wasn’t out when I went to my first Pride. In fact, I was doing everything in my power to not be a lesbian.
My mum was working for my uncle, who was a Labour MP at the time, and had organised taking a red open top bus to the parade in Edinburgh.
Without any childcare, she decided to take me along with her. I’d be an extra pair of hands to blow up balloons and wave flags, mum figured, which sounds fun, but I wasn’t at all happy about it.
I was 14, angst-ridden, and reluctant to go with her. What if someone from school saw me on TV or in the paper and thought I was gay? What if the female friend I was crushing so hard on found out and put two and two together? Just the thought of it made me sick.
Mum ignored my protests, which came in the form of slammed doors. She had no idea why I was acting this way, of course. I’m not sure I even really knew. So, under duress, I went along, and as the parade began, I found myself sitting at the back of this bus, hood up and with a face like thunder, while all around me people were having the time of their lives.
But as I was texting my friend on a Sony Ericsson the size of Sweden about what an awful time I was having, I saw a banner go past for an LGBT youth group. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but I do remember saving the number to my phone under a code name. I never called it, but it was the
first time I had really acknowledged that I was struggling with my sexuality, and something changed in me that day.
A year later, I told my mum I was gay. I was worried about how she would react, but I needn’t have been. She couldn’t have been prouder.
My first Stonewall Youth Pride…
Each year, Stonewall hosts a Youth Pride event and invites around 100 young LGBT people to march with us at Pride In London. I’ll never forget the first time we did this and I marched alongside them.
For many of these young people it’s their first ever Pride, while some of the others won’t have ever met anyone LGBT before. Supporting them as they march loud and proud through the streets of London, loved and accepted by the cheering crowds, is a moment I look forward to each year. And I’m thrilled that we now get to do it in Manchester and Birmingham too.
The very first UK Black Pride…
I was around 24 or 25 at the time and there had never been anything like it to my knowledge.
A Pride for people of colour!? I remember being excited and shocked at the same time and thinking, “What amazing person has managed to pull this off? It’s going to be a place where eating things like jollof rice and jerk chicken isn’t seen as exotic, it’s considered home-cooked food.’”
My partner at the time and a few friends agreed that we were going! I remember wondering how we’d manage to have a great time and feel safe with it being located in Southend. We took coaches, which left from Vauxhall and set off on a journey to an event that would make history.
We arrived feeling ready to experience all UK Black Pride had to offer. I felt emotional all of a sudden as we set up our blankets on the grass. We had music, entertainment and food. Nothing felt out of place and we felt safe to be ourselves; this was awesome.
Black Pride was everything I had wanted and so much more than I expected. We danced, we laughed, we ate and we were able to just BE! We knew then that it was possible to claim space just for us and that if it happened once, it could happen again!
I’m now 36 years old and have the absolute honour to be head of media production at UK Black Pride. I recognise that we need a Black Pride and I’ll do all I can to ensure the message spreads far and wide.
The Pride where I surprised my best friend…
I signed my best friend Tom and myself up to dance in the Manchester Pride parade as it was the first Pride when we had both been out to all our friends and family. I decided not to tell Tom as we like to surprise each other and do spontaneous things.
After being out on the Friday night, waking him up at 7.30am wasn’t as easy as planned. He has a background in dance so I knew he’d love it when we got there. We learned the dance and the choreographer placed us at the front; before we knew it we were lining up with our custom t-shirts ready to go.
I was so proud to be part of something positive and accepting and to really celebrate who I am for the first time. We spotted friends and family in the crowds wearing lots of rainbow decorations and it was probably the first time I realised I wouldn’t change my sexuality, even if I had the choice. Coming out can be a really hard time but once you get through it, embracing your whole self feels like the best thing in the world.
The Pride where I met my soulmate…
On 1 August 2009 at Brighton Pride, fate was definitely on my side. Although we weren’t looking for love, in a chance encounter I ended up meeting my soulmate on a bus, which has led to eight years of amazing memories, a beautiful wedding and becoming parents to our fantastic daughter.
I was leading my sister-in-law-to-be’s hen do and, dressed in burlesque outfits, we were heading back to town from a boozy hen photoshoot.
The taxis only took us to a certain point and the heavens opened up on us with torrential rain. We had no choice but to grab a bus into town.
I chose the seat next to Krystal. I nicked her drink and we all ended up in the same bar and got chatting. I knew at that point I needed this woman in my life, and the rest is history. We love going back to Brighton and never complain if it rains!
This article first appeared in the June 2017 issue of DIVA – grab your digital copy right here!
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