I remember camping with my family when I was about eleven or twelve, waking up one morning in our tent, and admitting to myself that I was gay. Blood rushed to my head, and in a mortified panic, I promised myself that I would never tell anyone this secret for the rest of my life.
At twenty-one, pride feels like a second birthday, and my queerness feels like a gift. I have nurtured, fought for and protected this gift more than anything else I have ever received in my life.
I’ve heard people say that you shouldn’t let one part of your identity consume your whole existence. However, it’s hard to ignore that one facet of your life that other people solely define you by, whether you like it or not.
I’ve been told I was too gay in school and that I talk too much about being gay at university. In embracing my queerness, I still find I’m having to justify, dilute or amplify this part of my identity to please others. It’s hard to digest that the same people telling you that you’re too gay or not gay enough are the ones at pride parades drinking Malibu and coke, taking pictures with their friends and having a good time.
The reality is, being queer has become my whole life – and not just one month or one parade a year.
Queer people stand in the face of adversity daily. Being queer transcends clothing. It’s in the way we talk, hold ourselves and communicate. So let’s get one thing straight (excuse the pun) – regardless of our clothing, haircuts and outward expression, queer people are still being marginalised and discriminated against.
Many of the queer people I know, including myself, moved to London in hopes of finding themselves at the epicentre of creativity, acceptance and opportunity. Whilst London doesn’t fall short of its promises, homophobia, transphobia and racism run rampant in North, East, South and West.
Many turn a blind eye to day to day stories of homophobia and racism, because we’ve fought for and been awarded our rights, right?
Time and time again this mentality has been disrupted by major horror stories that make the news. This time last year a queer couple were assaulted on the top deck of a double-decker bus by four young men. In January this year, the Evening Standard revealed that a harrowing fifty-five homophobic hate attacks happen in London every week.
The ‘you’ve got rights’ mentality is disrupted by these news reports, but never amended. This is why pride isn’t just for pride month.
But it doesn’t always make the news. We’re still marching for our BAME trans brothers and sisters in central London because they’re losing their lives and it remains unreported by any major news outlets.
On the surface, your queer/BAME friends, the drag queens you see performing at Heaven and the trendy gay guy that made you your oat latte in Gail’s may seem fine, but each has probably experienced some form of discrimination, homophobia or racism within the last month.
Only a few weeks ago when I got back to work after the world went into lockdown, I was called a faggot by four young teenagers at my part-time retail job. Not only is this personally humiliating, but it’s also worrying.
The boys were maybe sixteen or seventeen and I’m twenty-one. I naively hoped (and hope) that the younger generations would be more socially aware than my own generation, and that their queer peers would be more comfortable than I was growing up. It goes to show that visibility and education are still essential for queer people to be accepted within society, not only in London but across the world.
But should we, the queer community, be the ones educating?
Why should it be our responsibility in 2020?
That’s what we’d like to say of course, and that’s what we should encourage. The reality is, we’re still our biggest supporters and to see the change we must be the ones to actively make it. And to our allies, we can spot the Malibu and Coke drinking parade-goers from the genuine activists and change-makers. We see and appreciate you.
Pride is a great opportunity to be visible, online and in person. Although every day is an opportunity to be visible, we’re not always comfortable to do so and that’s fine. Everyone has their own individual way of contributing to the community, big or small, and each is valid. Ultimately, we all have a responsibility to make our voices louder and to defend EVERYONE in our community. Report instances of homophobia, share stories with your work colleagues and friends, let people know it’s not all rainbows and Rupauls drag race.
Pride isn’t just for pride month, pride is every day for us.