It was London, June 1993. I'd just turned 18 and was desperate to have sex with a guy. I decided that Pride would be the perfect place to find a boyfriend ever since catching a glimpse of the local TV news report about the annual Pride march in the centre of London.
I had no gay friends at 18, and all I wanted was to know other gay people, there was no internet back then and I can still remember that horrible feeling of isolation. I had tried going to many of London’s gay bars but failed miserably at making it past the door, I was too scared. Shortly after I came out, I asked my friend, Jess if she wanted to go with me to London Pride as I didn't want to go by myself. Jess was a few years older than I and had been to the march a few times with her gay aunt, she told me that Pride would change my life. I wasn’t too sure what she meant, but I was excited to find out.
After what seemed like months waiting, Pride finally arrived and it felt like 1000 Christmases had come early. The night before, Jess and I emptied the local store of alcohol and stayed up all night blasting out Madonna and getting ridiculously drunk. The next morning we got dressed up, packed our bags full of alcohol and hit the streets. We caught the bus into the West End where we immediately joined a group of guys sat on the top deck who were already loud and drunk, all clutching their home-made queer banners for the march. We completely took over the bus, making noise and laughing hysterically, I’ll never forget how much fun I had with people I had only just met.
As we came into the West End, London completely changed, the place was heaving with people and the atmosphere suddenly turned electric. As I peered out from the top of the bus at the sight of so many gay people blowing whistles and waving flags, I nearly wet myself with excitement. We piled off the bus and joined the march at Piccadilly Circus, and I become overwhelmed that I was finally surrounded by thousands of people just like me.
While on the march I saw lots gay couples holding hands, I had never seen two guys showing affection for each other in public before. I then realised that I was out on the street not hiding my sexuality, and it felt fantastic. As leaflets were being handed out along the route, I discovered that I was oblivious to many LGBT issues, as well as the existence of rights campaigning organisations like: Stonewall, Outrage! and GMFA. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone, and with my new found sense of solidarity, I became angry that we were not equal in the eyes of the law and there was so much homophobia in society. At the time, the legal age of consent for gay male sex in England was 21, and legislation like Section 28 was treating us like second class citizens. I became enlightened and politicised.
As the march came to an end in Brockwell Park, I stood with thousands of others listening and clapping to the speeches, and for the first time in my life I felt proud of who I was. I looked at my friend Jess who was standing next to me, and told her that she was right, Pride had changed my life.
With many marches and parades under my belt, Pride today means more to me than a party and celebration of our diversity. Pride signifies an importance to remember what was fought for and the struggle it’s taken to get us here. There’s still a lot of work to do, especially on the international stage, but Pride's message means never giving up the fight for equality - it also means being true to yourself no matter what, and partying hard while sticking two fingers up at the haters.
I don’t have any photos of my first Pride march, there were no smartphones then and developing film was expensive. I remember saying to Jess that I didn’t want to document the day, I wanted to enjoy it and keep the memories in my head. Now, I wish I did have photos but I seem to remember being in quite a few of other people’s. Although I didn’t meet a boy on that summer’s day in 1993, I did meet the rest of the gay family, and instead I went home happy and proud, never to forget my first Pride.
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