Hurrah! The Manchester gay celebrations are almost upon us.
I do love a bit of Gay Crimbo. Celebrations, drinky-poos and music all crammed into the beloved gay village. I am, however, super aware that there are plenty of LGBT people who don’t like the weekend. I absolutely get it. Yes, it’s beyond busy, drunken, raucous and at times debauched. Have I mentioned the time I saw a woman pull her pants down from under her skirt, sit on the floor and take a piss on a busy concourse? Strangely, I was the only witness who knew the trickle down the pavement was not spilt Carling. She then proceed to wipe herself on a food tent. Classy.
So yeah, it’s not for everyone. But I want to address the reason that I love to celebrate this weekend.
It’s not the parties or the acts who perform. Quite simply, it is having a weekend in which we come together to celebrate how far we’ve come as LGBT folk while acknowledging that this is a continuing journey.
I am so very aware of how fortunate my life has been as a lesbian in comparison to other members of the community. It’s easy to sit back and think ‘yeah, it’s cool now, I can live my life’ but that’s not good enough for me.
Homophobia still exists.
The sour seep of homophobia which slyly permeated what was otherwise an amazing Olympics made me shake with rage and sadness. Specifically the shameful heterosexual journalist who thought it was newsworthy to lure closeted gay athletes into dates on Grindr and then blatantly hint at their identities. To prove what? That there are closeted athletes at the Olympics? Well duh, you fucking moron. You have no idea of the implications of your click bait drivel. Have a think about why people are closeted and whether your despicable actions are going to do anything towards providing a safe environment for people to come out on their own terms.
That wasn’t by far the only murk of homophobia at the Olympics. Out athletes had their partners ignored, Tom Daley’s performance was apparently down to ‘turning gay’ and a BBC commentator balked at the thought of two men kissing on camera. I could go on…and don’t even get me started on the sexism.
If you think I’ve gone drastically off-topic, I haven’t.
We have moved on so much. We are safer than we’ve ever been and the fact that there were more out athletes at the Olympics than ever before made me so warm inside you could toast marshmallows.
But the homophobia that continues to blot our world is a stark reminder that this is a continuing plight. It’s why I shake my rainbow flag with a vengeance during Manchester Pride. And there are two vital events during the weekend which I believe encompass the true essence of pride: the annual parade and the Candlelit Vigil.
If you have never witnessed or been part of the parade, it is a colourful, joyous and delightful event. I can’t tell you how fuzzy I get when I march through the streets. The pavements are packed with hoards of people cheering and waving. Everyone is in on this – straight, gay, bi, trans, whatever your identity, thousands of people turn out to support our community and to say it’s OK to be whoever you are.
Then, to finish off the weekend is the vigil. This is a truly humbling event to recognise those who have gone before and the struggles they faced. Nothing puts into perspective how far we’ve come and how precious our current rights are like attending this event. If you’ve never been, I implore you to go, no matter what your sexuality.
There’s not doubt that, this year, we will pay respect to the victims of homophobia, including those of the Orlando shooting – a horrific and frightening tragedy and a terrifying reminder that our journey is far from complete, and why we need stand proud and to shout loud to educate and eradicate homophobia in our fight for equality. This is why I do Pride.
Manchester Pride Big Weekend is August 26-29, 2016. Tickets are available from http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/manchesterpride. The parade and the vigil do not require a wristband.