I’ve never been to a Pride event before. I think a combination of being stressed out by large crowds and not enjoying the party scene back home has meant I’ve stayed away from our annual Mardi Gras festivities back home. And I think it’s because I didn’t understand what Pride is about, because it’s about so much more than me.
I coincidentally happened to be in Vancouver for their Pride week, which means the opportunistic traveler in me said that I had to go to some events, one of which was the parade. I had an idea of what would happen there – different groups would march down the street representing whoever they represent, with various levels of sexualisation and nudity, and everyone would be happy and cheering them on.
But until I was actually there in person, it didn’t hit me what this all meant. Seeing groups that might not usually stand next to each other march in the same parade in support of the same thing is not something you see every day. Opposing political parties, competing banks, all standing for the same cause at the same time. And with reminders of all the victims of the Orlando shootings scattered throughout, it really hit me.
I was moved.
If you know me, you know that doesn’t really happen much. So, why? Why was I, a usually (relatively) emotionless, unmovable being moved by such an event?
I was moved because it finally hit me that right here, right now, it’s okay to be gay. Maybe because I hadn’t really seen or understood something like this before, but I was moved seeing a city come together over LGBTQ issues and rights, and I was moved by the support and encouragement of all of those who attended. And I was moved because something like this exists, and it exists purposefully.
Yes, lots more happens during Pride. There are crazy parties, and the clubs are packed, and much is quite sexualised. And people get drunk or high or…other forms of drug-induced states. People have a fun time.
But it’s not about that. It’s not about you or me just having a blast. The festivals and partying and dancing – it’s a celebration of something bigger than the festivities itself.
Pride is the positive stance against discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people, and it exists only because there has been much discrimination and violence in the past. Regardless on where you stand on a variety of sexual/family issues, I think it’s hard to stand by the way LGBTQ people have been treated throughout history, and Pride remembers and celebrates the progress that has been made since.
I’m very grateful to have been in Vancouver during their Pride week to see how accepting a city can be. I know it’s not the same all over the world (heck, not even in Sydney!) but I think I now actually understand why it’s called “Pride”. Because of those who have fought for LGBTQ issues and rights, we don’t have to be ashamed today. We can be proud.