Welcome to Pride Project 2020! In this day-long series, a few queer writers share a moment of Pride on the last day of Pride Month. Read all the Pride Project posts (and identity posts) here. This post is by Liv Gamble.
The first time I attended PRIDE in Nottingham and watched the march, I was a wide-eyed 16-year-old. I was only just coming into my own after coming out the year before and still making sense of who I was and what that meant. Life was a whirlwind at 16, and that Nottingham march seemed to fit in with that – it was never-ending, a parade of bright colours and loud, proud people. People like me, not through looks but through a deeply embedded sense of pride, not just in who we loved, but who we were. I didn’t completely understand that then, but it was there, in the back of my mind like a photo still coming into focus.
I watched them march, lost among the swells of onlookers on the side-lines and knew that I wanted to be marching with them. There was something appealing about that walk, booming yet peaceful, and about what it stood for. Even then, at 16, I knew that it wasn’t just a march; it was a show of pride. Little did I know that nine years on, I would march, not with the same people in that Nottingham parade a decade before, not even through the streets of my home city, but a thousand miles away in Liverpool.
At 25, I was considerably less wide-eyed, but, whether you’ve seen it once or a hundred times, the PRIDE march has a way of keeping you in awe. On this particular day during this particular year I was due to meet Hollie, a friend from university, and walk with her in the march. For the first time in my life, I was also late. I stormed off the train, charging from Central Station towards St. George’s Hall, following the other stragglers with their flags and face paint.
I heard it before I could really see it, the pounding of drums, the trumpeting of horns, the familiar swell of cheering and whooping and whistles. If I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine I was back in Nottingham, a fresh-faced teenager on the brink of discovering there was more to being gay than I ever thought possible.
I took a moment to soak it in from the sidelines. I didn’t care that I’d seen it a million times before. Seeing people march, their children on their shoulders, holding taut banners and flags above their heads, waving and laughing, never grew old. The Liverpool police passed by with their Love is Love signs, the brass band following them, the employees of Barclays brandishing signs that told us, We Stand with You.
I ran down by St. John’s, not entirely sure what I was looking for other than the bright outfit Hollie was wearing, and there were plenty of them. Then I saw her, waving and gesturing frantically for me to join her. Threading through the crowds, she reached out and pulled me into the throng by the hand. And suddenly, just like that, I was in the parade.
In front were the bartenders of GBar, Heaven and OMG who had served me after so many late-night shifts, holding their own banners aloft and cheering with the crowd. Behind were the drag queens who entertained at Superstar Boudoir and beyond, towering over the procession in their heels and high wigs. And there I was, in the middle, in the thick of it, feeling like one important part of a much bigger whole.
And I always had been, as had everyone else at that march, whether they were walking or not. It’s easy to forget just how big that whole is during the day-to-day, but when you’re faced with it, with the sheer number of people like you and the volume at which they can scream “out and proud!”, you quickly remember.
I walked, watching people cheer and wave from the sidelines – younger people, teenagers and children with their parents, older people, grey hair lost above rainbow shirts. All of them had their own stories to tell, their own journey that had led to this very moment, and I wondered what those journeys looked like, if they curved and snaked on the map like long ribbons or if they were simple, uncomplicated. I thought about my own journey and where I’d come from, the route I’d taken to get here that started with me at 16, watching the parade.
Because PRIDE is a thousand things. It is about the collective – scores of people flocking together and celebrating not just who they are, but the freedom to express it. That’s really what the march is all about. It’s a peaceful, colourful reminder that we’re here, we’re proud, and most importantly, that we matter. We’re a community, one that gathers strength in its numbers.
But it’s also about every individual that helps to make up that collective into a whole. It’s about the older people who couldn’t come out when they were 16, or even 46, who first attended PRIDE at 76 and attend every year after. It’s about the people who are unabashedly themselves, at PRIDE and everywhere else, too. It’s about the people who are still figuring out exactly who they are, and go to PRIDE because it feels something like home there.
And it’s about those private moments that everyone feels. I didn’t need to march to feel pride, but that long and winding walk through the streets of Liverpool with hundreds of others like me felt like a testament to my 16-year-old self, that wide-eyed teenager still unsure of exactly what pride meant for her, as if I was looking back and saying, “hey, I know it took a while, but I’m here. I’m doing it. I like to think you’re as proud as I am.”
And you know what? I think she would be.
Liv Gamble is a random trivia enthusiast enjoying the magic of words, sapphic life, and imagining herself in a cartoon universe. You can support Liv by donating a few dollars via PayPal. Read more Pride Project 2020 and identity posts here.