August brings Pride to the capital of Wales, with the people of Cardiff and beyond spending the day listening to live music and cabaret, whilst being surrounded by drag queens, shirtless male models and fair rides. It’s all to share a collective message of love, acceptance, and to celebrate all that we’ve achieved as a community. It also gives us an opportunity to show solidarity to the hundreds of thousands of LGBT people worldwide that continue to dream of the freedom we have in much of the Western world.
But, why do we need gay pride?
“Why don’t we have straight pride? Straight people can be proud of their sexuality, too, you know!” say a lot of people that I know. Russia has even unveiled a Straight Pride Flag (I’m serious). So, let’s explore that statement, as fair as it sounds, with an imagined scenario.
Matthew and Sophie are visiting Matt’s parents this weekend for a BBQ, because they haven’t seen the pair in over a month; but really it is because Matt’s mum has a thousand questions about how her new grandchild (seven months in the making) is doing. Matthew is barely through the door when his mum starts – what brand of milk are you going to use? Is the cotton thread count above 300 in the cot? Did Sophie rate that cauliflower recipe I sent over!? Matthew, being a bit of a lad, finds all of this “women’s stuff” way beyond his experience, so him and his old man escape down the pub for a few pints and some banter with the boys.
The next day, Matthew and Sophie go for a gentle stroll through the local park – Soph is worried about putting on too much weight with the baby so insists on a walk every day to keep everything flowing. Matt is holding Sophie’s hand to help keep her steady, because she fell a few weeks back and Matthew is obviously nervous for her.
A group of kids aged ten or so, rush past the pair – giggling and shoving one another. Matthew and Sophie look ahead to see Gareth and Scott, the gay couple that live a few doors down. Now, our couple don’t have a problem with them, but they do think that sometimes they “shove it down people’s throats” as Matt’s nan would say. After their walk, our couple get home to their flat and waiting in the corridor is Mrs Snay who asks about the baby, and she teases Matt about how he needs to really ‘man-up’ before the baby arrives.
A few weeks later our couple welcome their healthy baby into the world surrounded by their family, who take about 47 pictures of the baby with his mouth open, and closed, and kind of open. And with the baby on its own, and with a nurse, and with Sophie, and of his hand, and the medical tag.
Little Nathan is growing up fast, and Sophie is crying at the school gates watching her boy go in for his first day. All the other mothers are there too, crying, because their sons just ran to make new friends with each other, without needing their mum’s help!
Seems pretty, normal, right? Exactly. Now, I’d like to imagine that Matthew and Sophie were Gareth and Scott, the gay couple in the story.
They haven’t been invited to Gareth’s mum’s house in months – ever since Gareth brought Scott home, him and his dad are more distant than ever. Scott wants to hold his boyfriend’s hand, but whenever they do, they get stares, or mouthy pre-teens calling them words they don’t understand, and they don’t want to make a fuss.
Gareth and Scott had to move out of their last building because they figured that three broken door handles wasn’t a coincidence, and the abusive letter was more than a hint that they were not welcome.
Gareth woke up the other night to find Scott crying in the living room at a picture of his sister’s son – they’d love children, but they’re so afraid that his or her school peers would treat them differently for having two dads, but having a child would make Gareth’s parents so proud of him. Through the walls of their new place, they can hear Mrs Snay whisper about them through the walls, and the local pub is a hot-bed of hostility, with the banter always aimed at them.
So, can straight people be allowed to be proud of their sexuality? Of course they can, and their pride is expressed every single day. From up-loading a proud parent picture to Facebook, to holding hands at a family get-together, to having your in-laws introduce you as their child’s partner at weddings. These are just some of the tiny things that straight people can do every day, but gay people often have to think about these things, build their characters up to deal with these situations, and help their family to “cope and adjust” to them.
I remember a past boyfriend of mine holding my hand while we walked through town on our way home from a night-out – I have never felt so paranoid that I was being watched in my life. It’s a simple expression of support and care that two people share, rooted back to when our mums held our tiny hands to steady us, helping us learn to walk. I think for him it was about conquering his fears and realising how far he’d come, but for me it was just… nice. It felt normal.
In July 2015, three videos were uploaded to YouTube; two of which showed two men holding hands – one video showed the couple being pepper sprayed in Kuwait, another video showed a gay couple getting abuse during a walk through St Petersburg, and the third video showed terrifying and heartbreaking footage of a gay man being publically tortured and beaten in Uganda, with the crowd practically cheering on.
In short, as long as holding someone’s hand is something that can incite prejudice and even violence then we do not have equality.
Gay pride celebrations are not an excuse for a party; although when you look at the hate crime statistics, see the news of the LGBT community from across the world, or have the experience of walking around as an openly gay person watching the intonation in your voice, and the flurry in your gestures constantly, then I can tell you that if all we wanted was a party then you could hardly blame us!
In all seriousness, pride is a chance for an often fragmented community to come together to have some fun and support each other through the sometimes tumultuous journey of being an openly LGBT person. I know a lot of LGBT people feel that there isn’t a point to pride anymore; that it is embarrassing, and wondering why we’re all making a fuss? That it is just a hotpot of glitter, camp and flamboyance, but that is the root of our community – back when drag queens were dragged by their wigs by police in riots, where they fought all in the name of our rights.
Gay Pride is still very much needed – from the teenagers who are just exploring themselves to the 90 year olds that were beaten down every day of their twenties, we have a responsibility to remember our history, celebrate our achievements, and send hope for the future.
I am not saying straight people shouldn’t be proud of their lives – I want my friends to show off their baby pictures, I want them to get married, I want them to love their partners openly. But, the reason straight people don’t need Straight Pride is because all of the above has never been under-threat to them.
So finally, I humbly submit that we already celebrate straight pride every day with the express and unanimous permission of everybody, and I’m sure we will continue to.
P.S Don’t worry, when the gays complete their agenda, I’ll be an avid ally for the rights of all straight people. #LoveWins