Yesterday, I attended the Pride march (http://prideinlondon.org
) in London for the first time, with my wife (Holly) and our three boys. We had an amazing time, and I just wanted to share a few thoughts.
In planning, we were torn between three options: a) marching with Christians Together at Pride (http://christiansatpride.com
); b) marching with the Google float; c) watching. In the end we chose option b for various reasons. I'm sure we'd have had a blast with either of the other choices, but I'm pleased with our decision anyway.
After brunch at Bill's, we reached the Google check-in tables at around 11:30am, picked up bags with flags, capes, water, and T-shirts in, and then started waiting for the parade to start, with an ever-increasing number of Google employees and their friends and family. We'd brought a couple of flags/banners (a rainbow lion with "Pride hero" and a rainbow with "love is equal") which were generally admired. A lone face-painter was doing fabulous
work despite the queue - Tom, Holly and I all had our faces painted.
We'd initially expected to start moving around 1pm, then we were told 2pm - but there were general delays beyond that. Word came down that this was due to an anti-LGBT protest at the front, although I haven't seen anything about that on news sites since - I suspect the message was misheard due to the loud and fabulous music everywhere. I think we probably moved off around 2:45pm. While waiting, the kids got (understandably) a bit bored, as well as hot and tired, but never problematically so. (The weather was wonderful - sunny for most of the time, and hot. At one point Santander passed round a bag of suntan lotion tubes for those who wanted it.) A packet of cookies given to us as a sugar kick for the kids certainly helped!
The parade itself was - well, like nothing I've ever experienced. We started off walking beside the float, but at various times we a bit in front of it or quite a way behind it... and for about 15 minutes, Tom, Robin and I were actually on it, which was definitely one of the highlights.
We whistled. We cheered. We yelled. We waved our flags, held our banners aloft (helped by a Microsoft employee for the second half of the parade, for which I was very grateful) and drank in the atmosphere. The boys exchanged high fives with hundreds of people - others parading and the crowds along the streets, watching. Most surprising to me though, we danced
Now I don't dance. At least, not in a disco sense. I was in the Strathspey and Reel society at university, and I like a barn dance - you know, where there are definite steps to take, and it's mostly a matter of counting. I'm rubbish at dancing - I have a decent sense of rhythm, but my movements are awkward, and I'm very far from athletic. Yesterday, it didn't matter. In the exuberance, the joy of the occasion, and the omnipresent music, I was just caught up in it. Most importantly, I felt that no-one would care if I was dancing badly.
In an event where thousands of people are celebrating being able to simply be who they are after years of being told that their identity is "unnatural" (usually in rather stronger terms), the feeling of acceptance was overwhelming. I could enjoy myself and my far-from-graceful dancing without embarrassment.
I'm highlighting this because it feels like the epitome of the hugely inclusive
nature of the whole day. As another example, Holly was a bit nervous before we arrived: although we were sure we'd be welcomed, she still felt it might effectively be impinging on the LGBT+ community's event - gatecrashing their party, so to speak. I was convinced it would be fine, but I didn't expect quite the level of enthusiasm that greeted us, right from the start. It never felt like cordial tolerance; everyone seemed genuinely glad we were there, particularly with the boys in tow.
I feel like I'm explaining this badly - I could repeat myself several times to try to get across the strength of my feeling on this, but that wouldn't really be productive. It's easy to sound breathless and naive, and I suspect there's an element of truth there, too. Over twenty-four hours later, I'm still caught up in the event - which doesn't make me objective, but it does give an indication of the impression it's made on me.
The more I've reflected though, the more I find myself challenged. I have questions to answer:
- What does it say about the church that I felt more deliberately included and valued at Pride than I usually do at church?
- Why do I feel that declaring myself a Christian at Pride would raise fewer eyebrows than declaring my support for LGBT rights at church?
- I've been interested in LGBT rights to a greater or lesser extent for years. What does it say about me that I haven't been to Pride before? What else do I claim to care about, but fail to take action on? It's not like attending Pride is exactly going out on a limb, either.
I'm going to stop now, before this turns into a massively unreadable tome. But thank you, everyone who welcomed us yesterday. Thank you, Google, for supporting Pride so well. Thank you, everyone who has taken a stand over so many years. You're all my Pride Heroes.
(A note on comments: I'm not going to declare a specific moderation policy here, beyond "I'll use my discretion.")