“This is the first pride I’ve attended where I’ve known I’m queer.” I said to H as we stood in a crowd of smiling people, waving and wearing colourful flags. The murmur of conversation happily bubbling with anticipation and joyful celebration.
“Oh yeah.” They replied, squeezing my hand tightly.
I smiled widely and they smiled back, kissing me.
I’m glad I had my first proudly queer pride with H. As I used to think I was straight before I met them.
But you’ve heard all that before.
It was my first Leeds Pride too. I’ve done 4 Manchester Prides before, I even got ordained in refreshing ministry there in 2016 so I felt like I had a vague idea what to expect.
But of course, I didn’t really.
Not past the practical understanding of how a parade kinda works anyway.
I was excited. I started out at H’s, getting all Pride ready. I painted a pretty bi flag on their undercut, with a little triangle indent of the Non-Binary flag. We headed out together with their housemate, a queer band of colour and smiles.
We saw more and more evidence of Pride as we walked through Leeds, I especially loved the lady wearing a ‘Proud Mum’ t-shirt and a little boy wearing rainbow braces and running along excitedly laughing.
H was trying hard to prove to me that they didn’t know every queer in Leeds. They failed. They know every queer in Leeds!
I love the vibrant undercurrent of joy that bubbles along the streets when Pride is celebrated. The smiles and the hugs, the cheers and the whistles. I love the way strangers become friends, even if they only make eye contact. People are not only seen, not only recognised but celebrated.
I met a few people I know, through H and Cocktails and Fuck Tales and chit chatted about this and that. One person said “I was so happy to hear about this!” Gesturing wildly between H and I and I couldn’t help beaming at their enthusiastic joy. I felt truly part of things. Which coming from t’other side of them there ‘ills and being such a new (well, newly aware) queer I wasn’t sure I would.
Anxiety is a bitch but my overthinks were very wrong.
H, their housemate and me
I was stood waiting with the rest of the Bi Group,chit-chatting happily with H and their housemate and others around. H’s Housemate puts up with a lot when I come to visit, but she’s always a gracious host and a genuinely lovely person who I love chatting too. We were all gripping hold of the giant Bi pride flag,H was one side of me, their housemate on the other and I was suprised when I looked up into very familiar eyes, eyes that I’m relieved to say were within a very familiar face. The very wonderful Ripper Moff.
We had what has to be the most Northern interaction in the world ever. It was all about a pint. A pint that wasn’t a full pint. Ripper Moff got the full pint in the end though, you’ll be glad to know. As a landlords daughter, I was very glad that he fought to be sure his pint was indeed a full pint. Yes, Cis dudes, gay fellas care about beer too. Shock!
It was wonderful to see someone so integral to my Manchester Pride experiences in Leeds. And a lovely surprise. I could have introduced them to H a little more carefully though, as the poor guy was stuck for a moment trying to work out whether Kev and I were still married or not. Note to self, introduce H to people who know Kev as my other partner. So they know it’s a poly thing and not a murdery thing.
I stood peacefully, watching the parade grow around us. Bubbles kept floating past, behind us was a giant golden Owl (I felt very blessed by their presence) and pride flags of all kinds fluttered in the breeze. I had my H’s hand in mine and I was content.
I also had their bi flag all over my face. Every time we snuggled together, a bit more of them would rub off on me. Oo er. I kinda liked it. I prefer the more permanent marks they leave in other places, but in public, I enjoyed getting their Bi all over me. Oh yes.
Eventually, the crowd moved forward. We were off. And just then, the heavens opened. It was a beautiful experience. I know that sounds strange but I’m northern, I’m used to rain. But many people carrying the huge flag used it as a make shift umbrella. It was protecting us from the elements.
Under the Flag
For me, that mirrors my experience of discovering my queerness. I find nothing but support and care and understanding from the community I meet and talk too. It’s such a safe space to be. And I need that because I have worries. Of course I do, it’s me.
When I’d duck my head out now and then to wave at the crowd and take a breath of cool air I was fascinated by the way the rain bounced up and off the flag as it flowed. I squealed and laughed a few times as this rain bounced off onto me.
Sheer joy. My heart was light.
I was refreshed.
And yes, it did make me think of dirty, kinky wet things. Hey, it is me after all.
And the rain soon stopped and the sun came back out. We walked on with the Bi flag, people waving and whooping, wanting high fives and sharing smiles and winks.
The crowds are much closer on the Leeds Pride Parade or maybe the width of the flag made it so we had to walk closer to the crowd. It gave an intimacy that I don’t find so much at Manchester Pride. Here, I was meeting gazes, exchanging words and compliments with many members of the crowd. At Manchester I’m more aware of a sea of faces and pick out only a few along the way.
I wasn’t aware of the TERFs who sadly were in evidence at the parade. It seems other people were busy drowning them out with their response of ‘No hate at Pride’ and I’m so grateful to all those who stood up for our Trans family. Because they are valid and they are loved and there’s no room for judgement based purely on genitals at Pride. Hell, there should be no room for it anywhere.
Pride started as a protest and it still is. Because we are not yet all equal and we really fucking should be. So thanks to all those of you who shouted down the haters, who showed the strength of the queer community. You rock. Thank you.
I did notice a band of wonderfully affirming Christians on the route, which was lovely. Especially as on the way up a ‘Christian’ shoved a leaflet at H and me with the sourest looks on their faces.
“No thanks, I already know Jesus, ta.” I replied.
I don’t know what they were selling, I didn’t take the leaflet, but by gum, I can tell you know it wasn’t affirming.
The group I noticed on the parade had great posters proclaiming God’s love for all and apologising for the bad behaviour of the church towards the LGBT+ community. I thanked them as we walked passed. Those Christians, of all ages, were doing the good work. I wish I could have stopped and hugged’em all but I was holding the flag and I went where the flag went!
We did at one point cross paths with a Straight pride protester, actually I don’t think he was actively protesting, I think he was just a drunk dude trying to be ‘clever’. He yelled about Heterosexual pride and how he had balls and loved women. Basically he was deeply obsessed with his genitalia. It seemed to be the only thing he was proud about.
“I have a cock and fancy women!” He yelled.
“Yes darling, So do I.” H replied with a wink. H, in their dress, with their stockings and lippy on. It was a beautiful moment. It made me laugh but it captured them so beautifully. They make space for other queers by being so unapologetically gay and they bring laughter and joy even in situations that could have been incendiary.
I was proud right then. Proud of them.
Soon our parading was over. I was knackered but happy. H and I took a photo to send to my son. In it we look hot, sweaty and happy. I think it’s my fave photo from the day, it’s so real and full of joy.
H and I after the parade
After the parade we headed into Wharf Chambers. H was still full of bounding energy and talking to every queer in Leeds :p I however was feeling my age. I had to sit down. Thing is, over the last 5 months of being with H, I’ve met many of their friends. And those friends I now count as my friends too. So I sat amongst friends. Chatting and laughing and smiling.
H would come back, touch base, kiss and hug and love on me. And scurry off again to dance and chat and play. I would have loved to have danced too, but I was too hot and too exhausted to try.
I got high-fived in celebration of my first Pride as an out queer, given half a gluten free Sandwich and taught how to sign ‘Queer’ and other words in BSL. It was lovely. I didn’t feel at all like an outsider, not once. I didn’t feel panicked, even though the place was full and my H wasn’t by my side. I felt at home.
Putting my feet up in the shoes H customised for me.
As H’s friends decided to move off for food, I got up to go find H. I looked out of the door and there they were, Go-go dancing on the pedestal. In lingerie and a skirt.
I pointed this out and the reply was a chorus:
“Of course they are, where else would they be?”
I watched them with pride but I have to say, mostly lust for a while. Once again being reminded of why I love them so.
As I stood, gawking a lovely lady handed me a fan.
“You look like you might need this.” She said.
Clearly looking at H dancing all sexy like had me visibly hot and bothered.
“Aww, thank you.” I replied with a smile.
“Happy Pride.” She beamed. I was touched. I had no idea who she was, but her kind gesture really added to my overall experience. What a wonderful, sweet gift.
Yes, I felt pride right then but I felt joy and love and fidelity too.
My public Pride experience came to a close not long after but I continued to feel the Pride love as I ended the day entwined with my beautiful partner. Without H who knows how much longer it would have taken to realise I’m not straight.
But I met them, I fell in love with them and now I know.
I’m here, I’m queer and I’m loved.