My Pride blog starts the week AFTER the event, somewhere in Piccadilly Gardens. Bear with me, I haven’t completely lost the plot. Hopefully it’ll all soon make sense…ish.
I was sat with my daughter, waiting for my husband and I wasn’t really paying much attention to what was going on around me but there was a guy in the far corner talking into a mic. Not unusual, there’s often someone talking, singing or playing an instrument near the gardens.
It was only as I heard more and more mentions of gay, lesbian and transsexual in the guy’s patter that I started to pay attention. Now he wasn’t telling people it was wrong, to be fair. He was telling them it was an illness, a sin and some kind of demon possession but he was *not* homophobic. *coughs* He told us so, repeatedly.
Well, sadly, this plonker was preaching the hurtful and frankly wrong philosophy of ‘Love the sinner not the sin’. He was asking gay, lesbians and transgender folk to repent. Was questioning why pride should even exist.
Well, I’m not one to make a scene but because I’d been to my first pride the week before I felt I couldn’t ignore him. I went over and did a little preaching of my own. I think I was there for a good hour, my daughter beside me, joining in, counteracting what he was spewing. I didn’t really speak to him, because there was no way to change his mind. I spoke to the people in the crowd and this is a paraphrase of what I said:
God is love.
Love is love.
We should all be proud of who we are, what we are.
God loves all, gay, straight, bi, trans, black, white, old, young….you get the picture.
Now, I’m not sure I’d have had the balls to do the above (which went down well with everyone *but* the hate preacher) if I hadn’t been to pride the week before with my good friend Rev Dave.
Rev Dave is part of the Progressive Christian Alliance UK and is one of the coolest vicars I know. He’s had blogs here and on the Brit Babes about his experiences at Pride and I was determined to join in with Christians Walking with Pride this year.
Me and Beth met up with the Good Rev and headed to the Quakers Meeting House where others were gathering. I loved how the meeting hall was festooned with rainbow flags and it was a nice place to sit, breathe and pay a visit before heading up to the parade.
Dave walked us through the waiting floats as we’d not see them once we were part of the parade ourselves. It was…amazing. I couldn’t physically stop smiling and the atmosphere was electric with happiness and joy. We bumped into some familiar faces, Chris a mate from St Agnes church and a couple of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence including the fabulously smutty Sister Jacqui, who I adore and yes, my husband knows it!
There was colour and costumes, smiles and loud music, greetings from strangers and just the most uplifting aura of pleasure and fun. I was in my element. My daughter, 13 and the most awesome teenager I know, was as impressed as I was and we squeed and laughed and giggled and took selfies together all afternoon.
We joined the Christians walking with pride group, chatted to a few folk and took some photos with peeps from the Metropolitan Church and more as we wound our way round to the point where we’d join the parade. There was lots of standing but Dave’s jokes kept us entertained. It was a beautifully sunny day and even though we were essentially waiting for over an hour it didn’t feel like it.
In the parade itself we were surrounded by a wall of noise. Music and cheering from the others around us and then the whistles, claps, hoots and yells from the crowd. It was uplifting. It was overwhelming, it was a whirlwind of beauty. The reaction of the crowd to us as a group was incredibly positive. I met the eye of many people who smiled, waved, a few even blew kisses. We were appreciated.
My gaze was sometimes greeted with surprise, sometimes with gritted teeth, sometimes thinly veiled anger. I’m sorry, I know Christians have an awful lot to apologise for. We’ve not always been awesome at passing on God’s all-encompassing love. Some of us are trying to rectify that though. And I remember looking at one guy and the set scowl, ready for the barrage of religious nonsense dropped and he smiled.
What did I see? So very much, I wish I could remember it all. There was a group of enthusiastic cheerers who I asked to take a photo of, here they are:
And many groups equally as enthusiastic that I didn’t get pics of. I saw He Man, She Ra AND Skeletor (I wish I’d had the time to go up and ask for a photo!) and a dog decked out in rainbows. There were all kinds of people in the crowd from OAPs to tiny babies and I loved that variety.
Weirdly, one of my favourite parts of the parade was going past the hate preachers. They’d been gathered on our way down to the parade so we took note, Dave threw them a few words of challenge and we were ready when we walked past them.
What still chokes me up now is how there was a concentration of parade goers in front of the hate preachers, pushing them back and waving their own signs to contradict the hate that was being spewed forth. They were extra loud, extra dancey and when we came along and stood, our banners aimed at the haters, they went wild.
I really don’t think the hate preachers realised that they were making the complete opposite impact to the one they wanted. They were a focal point for positive outpourings of love, tolerance and peace. Not a single person was paying them a blind bit of notice and the power of love and tolerance was drowning out their hate. It was beautiful. And I hope one day that those poor, deluded souls will open themselves up to real love. I really do. It must be so sad to hate so blindly, to live a life controlled and judged.
It was an amazing experience and I’m going to go back next year. So now you know why I couldn’t stand by and listen to the hate. Pride isn’t about shoving your sexuality in people’s faces (as the hater was trying to say) it’s about accepting yourself and others for exactly who you are and celebrating that fact.