During high school, I never knew I was gay.
It sounds ridiculous to say now, partially because I’d actually consider myself bisexual, but up until the age of 18 I had never really thought of myself as queer. I’d always had girl crushes, but never explored the idea that they could be valid in the same way my countless year 7 heterosexual fancies were. This made it incredibly difficult when I first found out about Pride. I still made gay jokes when I was 15, and used the word ‘faggot’ unironically, despite calling myself a feminist. So for 15 year old me, who at this point had some kind of inkling that something wasn’t quite ‘right’ but didn’t know enough to accept herself, pride was utterly confusing. There was something so weird about a celebration of everything gay that just seemed so obnoxious. Yes, we get it, you’re gay. And it’s 2012 – surely homophobia isn’t that bad anymore, right? I didn’t understand the point to having an entire weekend dedicated to being born with a different sexual orientation (it basically just seemed like a cover for getting drunk and having sex).
Fast forward 5 years, and you’ll see me doing exactly those things (sorry Mum). But since then, I have learned that Pride is so much more than just an extravagantly gay party. It’s a celebration; a place where you can give your all and get it in return. I was lucky enough to attend Leeds pride last year, and I have honestly never experienced anything like it. The atmosphere was one of such love, and summed up everything that I adore about the LGBT+ community. After years of not exactly knowing where I fit in, and not being able to understand the reasons behind the extravagance of Pride, I finally realised. Pride is the only place we get to be vocal about ourselves and receive positivity and love as a result. Pride is the opposite of shame, a feeling I can promise all members of the LGBT+ community have felt at some point in their lives. Pride is the rainbow flag, the booty shorts, the glitter, the alcohol, the party. Pride is the love, the hope, the extravagance, the resilience and the visibility of the gay community in times when we may struggle.
It is so important to celebrate Pride for what it is, whether you’re an ally or a member of the LGBT+ community. We in the UK are lucky enough to live in the safest country in the world to be gay, and that’s definitely something to celebrate. I live in Leeds, where I can walk around the streets and hold my girlfriend’s hand, surrounded by rainbow flags and music. I do not feel unsafe in my own city, so I will continue to appreciate Pride for the ability it holds to create love both in the individual and in the community. Pride really does make me proud to be who I am, and I hope that every other 15 year old going through questioning can finally realise that there’s a place to express rather than repress themselves. A place that my younger self didn’t realise existed, but I’m now so thankful that it does.
— Leeds Pride (@LeedsPride) July 16, 2017
Image Credit: http://www.leedspride.com/2015-photos/
This year Leeds Pride will take place on the 6th August.