The Cheeky Charmer looks back on what this month has meant to them over the years

BY THE CHEEKY CHARMER, IMAGE CREDIT LISETT KRUUSIMÄE VIA PEXELS

Before I came out, Pride was only superficially on my radar. It was something “gay people did”. And yes, I was a “gay people”, albeit one so far in the closet I was practically in Narnia (don’t try telling me that Faun wasn’t queer, we all saw the natty way he’d wrapped those presents).

As my queerness reared its head* Pride piqued my interest a little more.

*Much like the game “Whack A Mole”, my gayness would pop out from where it was hiding, only to be bashed over the head by my fear and anxiety and be sent back down the denial hole again.

In the days we shall refer to as “BCC” (before Cheeky Charmer*), when my only experiences of being with a woman were in my head, I could only dream of attending a Pride event chock full of queer women.

I remember watching an episode of The L Word (secretly on the laptop I’d acquired for covert sapphic exploration whenever my then boyfriend was away) where Dana’s brother comes out at Pride.

*I like to think of this as my spawning or rebirth – something akin to how Doctor Who regenerates.

Now, I’ll admit my main attraction in that ep was Alice and Dana engaging in some hot strap-on sex. It blew my tiny “not quite ready to be queer” mind (“women can have sex like that?!” Yes baby CC they can see, “The first rule of packing club” for how far you’ve come). But the pure joy of being fully in your authentic self, of revelling with and being accepted by your community, that’s what I longed for.

…And the opportunity to make out with a hot woman 🤷🏼. That was, and still is, firmly on my “things to do at Pride” list. 

“The pure joy of being fully in your authentic self, of revelling with and being accepted by your community, that’s what I longed for”

Yes, yes, yes, I’m ashamed to admit, in recent times, Pride has become one long party weekend for me, where I try to find my (seemingly fictional) wife or, at least to get laid. Or a snog. I’ll take either at this point, Rose and I broke up remember? 🤷🏼

Six years BCC (e.g. six years before I came out) I happened to be in London on the same day as Pride. I didn’t go. But at the station on the way home, a gay man asked me if I’d been in the parade. I shook my head, “no”, confused as to why he’d thought that.

Then I looked at myself. The cropped blonde hair and gender-neutral clothing screamed, “not straight”. If I was a Lord Of The Rings style map, instead of saying “here be dragons”, there’d have been an arrow pointing to me saying “here be lesbian”.

“If I was a Lord Of The Rings style map, instead of saying ‘here be dragons’, there’d have been an arrow pointing to me saying ‘here be lesbian'”

Flash forward to Pride 2016. I’m out(ish), I’m proud(ish) and I have my first girlfriend (no ish about it, we were head over heels in love).

I’m still not at Pride though. Even though I desperately want to be. Not only do I have something to personally to shout from the roof tops (now I’ve got a girlfriend), we have something to collectively celebrate: last year the White House was lit in rainbow colours to mark the same-sex marriage ruling.

It’s like the realisation of everything I secretly dreamt of as a teenager (but didn’t know why): that gay people could live and love freely, just like straight couples. Although we’d just seen the Orlando shooting on 12 June 2016 – a stark reminder that not everything had changed.

And so, I don’t go to Pride. Not because I’m not proud but because my girlfriend isn’t here. She lives in another country and we’re not together right now. And I don’t want to go to my first Pride without her. I want to walk in the parade, holding the hand of the woman I love, basking in the glow of knowing I’m finally free to show the world who I am and who I love.

“I want to walk in the parade, holding the hand of the woman I love, basking in the glow of knowing I’m finally free to show the world who I am and who I love”

And given that, at this point I’m not out to my family, I feel a fraud celebrating Pride when I haven’t fully found that in myself yet.

To be continued next week…

Want to read more from the Cheeky Charmer? Check out their previous columns!

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