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Belfast: Pride is a Protest!

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No matter how much of this amazingly diverse planet one experiences, there can be no substitute for the exquisitely unique annual celebration of Gay Pride. Indeed the collective collaboration over the years between various LGBT groups and those supporting them has brought together a whirlwind of colourful displays by those of us who are out and proud.

Pride of course is not just about a collection of weird and whacky people dressing up for a street party; still a common misnomer derived from a negative stereotype. Intricate would be a vastly improved description of those that celebrate our diversity with pride.

Most things LGBT oriented at this time of year are of a much more serious nature. Sitting here in Northern Ireland half way through the excellently choreographed Belfast Pride Festival it is apparent that pride means so much more to participants and the public both collectively and individually with some who I've spoken to saying that "Pride is what you make of it, that's why it's so fabulous, exciting and invigorating".

Interestingly nobody truly owns Pride, which is why Simon Rea and the rest of the Belfast Pride team deserve a massive congratulatory thank you; what most do not realise is that all those who organise this activity rich festival do so as unpaid volunteers who are trying to please a fussy, very large audience. Looking at the Pride Guide it is difficult to fathom how much effort goes into everything; not only is pride driven by volunteers but it is a superb example of community funds being invested directly into community led projects.

Adam Bloch a volunteer for Belfast Pride gave an insight into his experiences saying that "Pride is a day of celebration, for everyone to be themselves. It's about celebrating our diversity, bringing everyone together regardless of sexuality."

Speaking of the Pride Guide, it is vitally important to reiterate the delicately-kept balance between the fun bits that are intermixed with serious events and information. For instance there are directions on how to avoid alcohol and drug misuse cleverly combined with a friendly "Enjoy Pride, but we also want to see you next year" message.

Political events that allow empowering interaction between the LGBT community and Northern Irish representatives on issues of often contentious but crucially important issues are flowing throughout the week whilst local LGBT organisations raise awareness of sexual education and health.

Family events are also featured this year which adds a new dimension to the festival allowing the public to de-sexualise the label of LGBT so as to see the true depth of this particular community.

We always manage to make pride a positive experience by showing the contribution our community can make to society as a whole. Such contributions stem from love, commitment and Pride.

Powerful messages are also coming out from this community that continues to struggle on both a local and global level for basic rights and equality.

Pride has a history and continually developing future that is inseparable from the civil rights marches which began the tradition of annual Pride parades not all too long ago. We should all be rightly reminded of this aspect that highlights the still sometimes harsh reality faced by the LGBT world.

Student movements simply must get a mention here for stereotypically outspoken advocacy on behalf of ever progressing of equality. Past student officers at Queens University Belfast such as Treasa Harkin, Adam McGibbon and Fiona Kidd must be given credit for taking a firmly bold stance for LGBT student's as they revolutionised the QUBSU helping create a friendly, accepting environment in a Northern Ireland that can still be very hostile towards LGBTI people.

In the United States of America, students continue to fight for the rights of their LGBT sectors even taking cases of discrimination to court in order to achieve the best possible results.

Unfortunately not everywhere in the world is as close to achieving the same standard of rights as others; just yesterday a story broke of the humiliating experiences that Lebanese LGBT people face on a daily basis. Discrimination is perpetuating inequality, abuse and torture throughout the world.
More locally here in Belfast we need to take heed that despite the fact we have much to celebrate, there is still much to be desired even from our own community in Northern Ireland as a whole. Society here must have a cultural awakening so that we no longer come up against ideological, political or legal impediments to genuine Equality.

Whilst we still have a public that accepts bigoted views from Ken Maginnis or who readily accept Edwin Poots' ill-advised and unintelligent reasoning for refusing to lift the ban on MSM blood donations it is apparent we simply must keep up our protesting so that we can educate the public thus changing attitudes, hearts and minds.

Even our education system still lacks access to basic awareness material that could easily stamp out homophobia.

Remember Belfast Pride does celebrte the visibility of an often disenfranchised comunity but it is also a protest!

Our struggle whether gay, Bi, transgendered or straight continues!

For everyone interest in Belfast Pride you can follow them on twitter and also use the hash tag #Bproud2012