THEY SAY THAT EVERYONE REMEMBERS THEIR FIRST TIME SO CARY GEE ASKED SOME PEOPLE ABOUT THE MEMORIES OF THEIR VERY FIRST PRIDE
Actor, Director, Writer
My first Pride was an overwhelming but wonderful experience. An old family friend who was on the Pride board took me along as a very green 16-year-old, only telling me when we arrived that I had a backstage wristband and would be helping out in the hospitality tent. I was shy, had never been around queer people and felt very much alone in the world. To suddenly find myself standing next to a young Graham Norton, or the super cool lesbian band Fem2Fem, pin-ups from my bedroom wall, was absolutely mind-blowing. I helped out for a couple of hours, timidly bringing people drinks, not quite believing where I was, until around 5pm when I decided to venture outside the tent. As I stepped out into the sunshine of London’s Victoria Park, I was met by the sight of thousands of LGBTQIA people smiling, dancing, embracing and celebrating their queerness. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t feel alone or “othered”. We were here, we were beautiful and we weren’t going anywhere. It’s a feeling that I’ll never forget and one of the biggest reasons why Pride is still so utterly important and needed.
Playwright and screen writer
In 1987 I was in my first year at University, aged 18, and a member of the Uni Lesbian and Gay Soc, as it was then called. They organised a trip to Pride in London and I went with them on a double-decker bus – an interminable journey – and the event took place on the South Bank at Jubilee Gardens. That area looks tiny to me now but back then it seemed vast. I’d never seen so many gay people before and I found it liberating and reassuring. At the end of the day we got back on our double-decker bus and travelled up to Hull again. I got off with one of the other guys from the Gay Soc and we held hands all the way home on the bus – I think we were just caught up in the excitement of the moment and the liberation we felt. I’d certainly never held a bloke’s hand in public before. I’m not sure I ever saw him again! If Pride can continue to help young LGBT people feel less alone, then it can only be a good thing.
I think it was somewhere in the Earl’s Court area of London. It was so funny and hysterical, which I love. And there was so much expression. You guys do Pride so well. You can really make something go on. Pride is all about acceptance, positivity and attitude. Pride is wonderful. Particularly in London.
Lord Chris Smith
First out gay cabinet minister and Master of Pembroke College (Cambs)
My first Pride was 1985. I was a Labour MP. I’d come out publicly the previous year. And I think that was the year that the miners’ steel band arrived to lead the march, in tribute to all the work that Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners had done. It was thrilling. And even more thrilling was 1997, when I was able to give a clear commitment to LGBT equality from the stage, on behalf of the new government. We still need constantly to rekindle the struggle for full equality.
Stephen K Amos
Comedian and writer
Back in 92, I was a mere slip of a young man, desperately trying to navigate who I was and my place in society. I didn’t feel pride. I’d never been to Pride before and, honestly, looking back, it was due to internalised shame, fear, being seen publicly and above all at that time, not knowing or seeing anyone who looked like or represented me.
I met up with a small circle of equally shy friends who lacked confidence and plucked up the courage to head into Soho for our first Pride. We were far too insecure and nervous to go on the parade march itself.
Soho was absolutely buzzing. Packed full of love, laughter, colourful and outrageous human beings, totally unapologetic for their existence. The energy was something else.
It was a huge milestone for me, more so by simply observing a truly diverse sea of people having fun. Folk of all colours, sizes, ages and persuasions, without judgment. I met more people that day than I’d ever met on the “scene”. I think I may have found my tribe.
We have come a long way in the last 50 years and we humbly stand on the shoulders of those fearless campaigners and activists who paved the way for change, all at the risk of their own lives. There is still work to do, both at home and abroad. Complacency is not an option. It’s no coincidence that a number of countries and former British colonies still have archaic discriminatory legislation in place as a direct consequence of that colonialism.
Visibility is so important, sending a political message to the wider world is so important and the celebration of our community is vital for us. It sends a message to members of our community that they are not alone, they are not outsiders. There are people just like you.
To be seen out, loud and proud with our allies is a joy to behold. We must never let it go.
Whether you want to march, join a float, party and scream… it’s all valid.
CEO Terrence Higgins Trust
I was a late starter to Pride events, my very first one was in 1993 at Brockwell Park in London when I was 28 years old. I attended with a group of great friends and experienced so much joy from being with other LGBT+ people. We danced, celebrated an remembered those we’d lost much too soon to the HIV epidemic – including many of our friends.
To me, Pride is about looking back to see how much we’ve achieved, and giving thanks to those whose shoulders we stand on. The progress we’ve made around HIV wouldn’t be possible without their contributions – I wish they could have lived to see it.
Our mission at Pride is to shout about the life-changing message that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment – like me – can’t pass it on. Because there’s far too many people both within and outside the LGBT+ community that aren’t aware of the facts on HIV.
Pride is also about looking forward to what is left to do. Of course it’s a time to come together and celebrate, but it is also a protest. For 40 years trans people have been some of the loudest voices in the fight against HIV and the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights. The treatment of the trans community in the UK is absolutely appalling.
The UK Government’s decision to exclude trans people from the ban on conversion therapy is unacceptable. Many of us at Terrence Higgins Trust have seen the devastating impact of conversion therapy on the lives of LGBT+ staff and service users, many of whom are living with HIV. The Government’s decision to go back on its promise to ban conversion therapy for all LGBT+ people is outrageous and must be reversed.
As the incomparable Marsha P. Johnson once said, there’s “No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us”. This Pride, I want to see the LGBT+ community lifting each other up and not tearing each other down. We need to fight for trans liberation, just as the trans community fought for those of us who were affected by HIV in the 1980s and 1990s.
Conservative MP, Carshalton and Wallington
My first Pride was in London in 2009 at the age of 17. It was lovely to be close to other LGBT+ people, and I certainly felt more confident after attending. Gay marriage was still illegal at the time, and many attendees were calling for its legalisation, regardless of their political beliefs. Whilst I enjoyed the parade and some of the other attractions that Pride in London offers, I was most struck by the levels of unity on display regarding the issue of gay marriage. That same level of unity must be shown regarding conversion therapy. We have to protect vulnerable individuals from these harmful practices, and any ban on conversion therapy must include the transgender community. Many people over the years have criticised Pride as becoming too commercial and de-politicised. However, I still believe Pride matters as it allows us to come together and highlight important issues like this one
Labour MP, Brighton Kemptown
I attended the first ever Bradford Pride in 2009, where I went to University. Prior to that we had had various Pride-style events in the basements of nightclubs. 2009 was the first year it was a citywide event and it has gone from strength to strength ever since. You only have to go back ten or so years and there was only a handful of Pride; now the number grows every year with places like Hastings in 2017 and Worthing in 2018. It is wonderful to see us being able to celebrate every colour of the queer rainbow in every corner of the country.
CEO of akt
Before I went to my first Pride I attended my first ever protest rally against Section 28 in 1988, aged 18 .Terrified and exhilarated, I joined thousands of queer activists outside Manchester Town Hall with my best mates Gus and Justin from the LGBT youth group. That was the first time I really felt part of my community. At my first Pride event I remember the excitement of making banners. By this point I was out to my mum, who wanted me to leave home. However for that day I was queered up and in love with the wonderful Manchester LGBTQ+ community. We hit the first group of haters telling us we’d go to hell, closely followed by a threatening gang from the National Front. But, for once, I felt powerful enough in the crowd to stand up to them all, as we chanted at the police, “Two, four, six, eight is that copper really straight?” In a world of online activism, where we still face hate, Pride can offer us a physical platform to unify to make sure we are all heard and we secure the rights we all deserve.
Carl Austin-Behan OBE
Former Lord Mayor of Manchester
Manchester Pride 1997. I was 25 years old, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I was still on suspension after being kicked out of the RAF for being gay. I remember going with a few friends and watching the parade, loving all the flamboyant floats with people wearing outrageous outfits , realising how much better I felt being out, open and living my life as who I really was. Living in Manchester I was a regular on Canal Street and around the village, but Pride, oh my God! I was like a kid in a sweet shop. It was exciting, it was adventurous, it was fun! From 6pm on the Friday to 6am on the Tuesday, 84 hours of entertainment… Back then it was far more relaxed than it is today, no rules, no barriers. Anything and everything goes! For me Pride is all about people coming together to celebrate who we are. Our biological families are invited to join us in our safe space as well as catching up with our “gay family” who we have built up over the years from that one-night stand back in the day to the relationships that have grown to be part of our true friendship circl
It was back in the mid-90s when I went to my first London Pride. My then girlfriend took me to see her “gay best friend” who lived in Vauxhall. As someone from a small Lancashire town, even London was alien to me. Within hours of arriving I was wearing a “Johnson’s Baddie Powder” crop T-shirt (it was a thing) with matching kilt and dancing to Kylie in a field with a thousand other LGBT folk and their friends. Needless to say, I didn’t go home with a girlfriend. Pride allows us to celebrate our queerness. Things have moved on, but you don’t have to travel very far out of the big cities to realise there is still a long way to go.
Outreach Volunteer at Hidayah LGBT
My first Pride was Black Pride in London 2019, and I was still very much in the closet. It was the first time I came across other queer Muslims and other more marginalised groups within the greater LGBTQ+ community. I felt at home around people who not only looked like me but also had similar lived experiences. Black Pride meant so much to me. It emphasised the importance of community for me. Today, I feel very hopeful for queer Muslims and Pride celebrations whether in person or virtually. Pride marches are now going to be more diverse and inclusive as time passes. The global pandemic forced us to find new ways to celebrate Pride along with tackling other important issues such as Islamophobia and racism. As one of the founders of Stonewall Riots, Marsha P. Johnson said, “No Pride for some of us without Liberation for all of us!
Comedian and TV Presenter
My first Pride was in Manchester when I was 19 – it wasn’t too big and attracted three out of the five members of Liberty X. Until that point most of my friends came from the estate I grew up on and were straight, which I know is immoral, but I am very open-minded. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was fresh out of a breakup so I could have been anyone’s! And I was – a sailor’s! Or at least he was dressed like one!
All joking aside, I think Pride is important – if you haven’t found your queer siblings yet, it is a great place to start as you can be your full, unapologetic self and feel safe being you! My favourite part of Pride is that you can find many important conversations being had on one of the various stages. It’s important to know our history, where we have come from and the work we still need to do – because living in a city and experiencing homophobic heckles in the street because you are holding the hand of the person you love proves there is still plenty to be done, which is why I still go to Pride – to be myself, to be safe and to know you are never alone in this community
Chair of Trustees, FFLAG
27 June 1987 – a dull, overcast day in London that contrasted with the colour and excitement of being in a protest demonstration. My first demo was also my first Pride. I was 32 years old. Little did I suspect that before the next Pride in London I would take part in so many more demonstrations – all of them against the infamous Clause 28 that surfaced that autumn.
Standing in the crowd in Jubilee Gardens after the march I remember for the first time feeling that together we could change the world. In February 1988, as one of the organisers of the Clause 28 demonstration that the Pink Paper called “Manchester’s Magic March” that feeling turned into resolve.
As a founder trustee of the Albert Kennedy Trust, which helped change perceptions of LGBT+ people as carers for teens and children generally, and now as a trustee of FFLAG, which has been advocating for equality and building bridges of understanding between straight parents and their LGBT+ children for decades, I know my journey began with the pride I first discovered in myself and in us as LGBT+ people at my first Pride.