I thought I knew what Pride meant. I thought it was about us reminding the world that we exist and that we need to be heard. But I’d been to so many over the years that had become just a Mardi Gras that it felt like it had lost its meaning.
In fact I’d stopped going to Pride In London because I felt it had lost its way, with too many huge brand sponsors, high ticket prices etc, it had become a way for brands to pink wash their credentials. There wasn’t enough of a community feel to it, or an awareness of the fact that there was still much work to be done. It wasn’t about people any more. It was about global brands, most of whom ignored us for 11 months of the year.
But for the last two weekends I’ve been to both Pride In London and then Trans Pride London. And my feelings have changed completely.
The two events were completely different. But I left both of them with a feeling of renewed hope. And hope has been in short supply recently.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Pride in London. Rainbow Stores had a stall in Leicester Square for the first time and as we arrived to set up at 8.30am there were few people about. But 14 hours later we were packing up after an incredible day and the topic of excited conversation was the staggering numbers of young people that had been there with their supportive parents.
The two missing years due to covid have obviously seen a build up of kids coming of age and exploring their identities. But with no Pride events to go to they haven’t necessarily been able to explore much. To see so many young teens out and proudly expressing themselves, discovering new friends like them and showing their community to their parents was one of the most uplifting experiences I can remember.
It made me want to hug these amazing mums and dads who, unlike many from previous generations, mine included, have accepted their kids for who they are. But also it inspired me that a whole generation is growing up knowing that support and having the strength that gives them. Everywhere we turned there were kids wrapped in their new-found flags. And it was utterly life affirming.
Trans Pride was something else. I had feared that it would be poorly supported, coming as it did, just a week after Pride. But a lesbian friend who modelled for us the day before said she and her friends hadn’t been interested in Pride but they were definitely going to Trans Pride as it was a protest. And that gave me hope.
I shouldn’t have worried. I arrived, late thanks to Uber, with one of my closest friends to find a vast sea of people unfurling their flags and holding their banners and signs, some huge, some small, some elaborate and some hastily crayoned on a piece of cardboard. But all there for one reason.
Last year had been amazing, but this was on another level. Organisers estimated around 30,000 had turned up! The whole LGBTQ+ community was out for us and it actually made me cry. From gay boys, to muscle boys, leather men, bears, twinks, lesbians, bisexuals and every other identity imaginable plus allies. A throng of people all supporting trans rights.
It demonstrated a community, a togetherness, a love of all our queer and gender nonconforming brothers, sisters and peoples that it’s so easy to lose sight of with the rise of the groups like LGB Alliance. We know that the LGBTQ+ family is a bit of a rag-tag collection at times. Thrown together as a group of outsiders by the Stonewall riots and subsequent Gay Liberation movement, with a common enemy and a need to be heard. But this showed us at our very best. United. Unmovable.
The vibe was joyful and upbeat. Celebrating what it means to be trans, but also very much with that edge of protest to remind those in power and in the media that we’re never going away and we will never stop shouting.
Tory party leadership candidates the following week were falling over themselves to double down on their transphobia. And the media outlets almost all failed to report the protest. It’s depressing that the small number of people who oppose us have such powerful friends, and such huge influence.
But this week that didn’t seem to matter so much. Because with the young people accepting and eagerly exploring their identity and being embraced by the support of so many parents, by seeing such a massive and vocal support of trans rights across the LGBTQ+ community, the future looks positive.
And my feelings about what Pride means? Well now it means... hope.