Growing up as LGBT+ in a country where being queer has an extreme negative connotation, it was not a smooth journey to embrace my sexuality and the aspects of my identity that make me non-heterosexual. I vividly remember that a few months after coming out, a tragic incident happened in the biggest city of my country and a group of gay friends were victims of a violent attack. It was all over the news and I was immediately conscious that being the person I was, could be the reason I would physically suffer.
Both growing up and coming out, however, I could peripherally see and hear about Pride Parades. They were a distant reminder that somewhere, somehow, people could celebrate who they were. I didn’t get the need for celebration, but I knew that the freedom they represented was the aim. My first experience in a parade was in EuroPride hosted in Amsterdam, and I knew that it was a life-changing experience: from the vibe to the different communities gathering and taking over the streets.
My process of self-acceptance also involved studying and learning about my predecessors and those who fought before me, who secured me the right to attend a parade and to share these experiences with my LGBT+ siblings. From protests initiated by trans PoC to glittery open-air parties, the evolution of Pride parades faced re-purposing and re-shaping – and, personally, I believe that the beauty of today’s format is that it gives us the opportunity to showcase our queerness, our confidence, the way we are comfortable with our own bodies and existence. It gives us a chance to remind young queer individuals that they are not alone and that a second family is waiting to support them in their community.
It was because of this feeling that it struck me when over 500 parades were cancelled last year. COVID-19 did not allow us to take the streets to celebrate and to hug those around us in a wider demonstration of the love, friendship and allyship we share.
But if we are cursing 2020 as the year when coronavirus happened, it is also the year where demonstrations of solidarity occurred following the murder of George Floyd. Regardless of the orientation, to stay at home and socially distance, Black Lives Matter rightfully emerged and took the main page of every newspaper. There was no way of waiting any longer, of peacefully expecting change. And whilst witnessing that, I wondered what would happen if Pride was still a protest, as it started?
Knowing that LGBT+ rights as we know originated from the racial movements in the U.S., I am also a firm believer that the intersectionalites between the communities make us both interdependent and stronger if allied. The future holds the chance to be more aware of the need to fight the establishment and to riot against any attempt to reduce our rights, or to control our ways of existence. Whilst supporting the BLM fight for Freedom, Liberation and Justice, the LGBT+ community has the duty and the opportunity to support and to do the same.
At the end of the day, I of course miss the parties and being out, loud and queer in the streets every summer. Concomitantly, I want my community to riot, to refuse anything less than the celebration of our identities: tolerance or acceptance are no longer sufficient. Pride is with us 365 days of the year and, more than anything, an instrument of change.
I will be the first to return to the Parade parties and to be part of the platform that amplifies our queerness, that reminds us that we exist as we rely on others and flourish in our interactions. But till then, Pride is and always will be a protest.