Why We're Taking Our Kids To Pride

05/07/2017 11:45 BST | Updated 05/07/2017 11:45 BST

Pride season is here - and we're getting ready for our annual family trip to Pride in London.

Two mums, two dads, two kids, and a huge rucksack crammed with face paints, rainbow flags, packed lunches, waterproofs, suncream, ear defenders and emergency snacks.

In previous years, we've marched or watched the marchers. We been there in the pouring rain and in the blazing heat, using stickers and free sweets to keep the kids smiling. We've let them scoot along the route, carried them on our shoulders to see above the crowds, and even on one occasion marched with a potty - in case of emergencies (the toddler's, not ours).

But we weren't there last year.

Like many parents of young children, more domestic concerns took priority. There was a date clash with the school summer fair. And I missed it - the noise, the crowds, the diversity, the flamboyant outfits, the people who have been marching at Prides since before I was born and to whom we owe so much.

I realised, when I heard my partner tell our kids that our town's summer fair parade (100 people, up the high street and back) was "a bit like Pride - but not really", that it was time to go back.

Pride's not the same once you have children. Not just the experience itself, but your reasons for going along (or staying away) can change too. When we interviewed more 70 LGBT parents and their children for 'Pride and Joy' - our parenting guide for LGBT parents - people had plenty to say about parenting at Pride.

For some, it's an important way of affirming an LGBT identity and a sense of community, which is not possible in everyday life.

Bi mum Rebecca found that becoming a parent compounded her lack of visibility as LGBT. "People tend to assume I'm straight anyway, and the addition of children just adds another layer of assumptions," she says. "But Pride is the one time in the year I'm unambiguously and publicly identifying/identified as queer."

For others, it's about celebrating the progress made for LGBT rights, in particular the rights to marry, form families and bring up children.

Dónal helped revive the LGBT Pride march in Dublin in the early 1990s. Shortly after the Irish marriage referendum result, and after many years absence, he took his two adopted sons to their first Pride march in 2015. The family had all taken part in the successful Yes campaign, which paved the way for same-sex couples in Ireland to be given the right to marry, and now it was time to celebrate.

"From the start of the campaign our kids were involved, and we found a new group of queers of all sexes and gender identities to call friends," Dónal explains. "It's been wonderful."

For many parents, like Dónal, it's important for their children to feel they are part of the LGBT community too. Pride enables LGBT parents to show their children that families like ours are not unusual, and that we can be proud of who we are. And the message seems to get through - at least it did for Shoshana, now in her twenties, who went to Pride throughout her childhood with her two mums.

"In my early years, my parents would wheel me around the parade in my buggy," she remembers. "My memories of Pride as a child are bright, colourful and noisy. I was proud of my family and happy to be marching for the LGBT+ community. Now I have a beautiful bunch of LGBT+ friends to walk with. But even if I didn't identify as LGBT+ myself, I'd still like to be there: supporting my family; proudly acknowledging our social significance; and championing LGBT+ visibility and rights."

But for all the positives, Pride, especially with small children, can be hard work. Although as more families attend, more facilities are provided, Pride can still be busy, noisy and chaotic. That's all part of its charm.

But this has put some LGBT parents off the bigger city-centre Prides, despite being regular attenders before. Instead they've joined in one of the increasing number of local Pride events up and down the UK.

After all, Pride doesn't have to be the all-out, thousands-strong, rainbow-coloured extravaganza that it will be in London this weekend and other big cities. For parents like 20-year-old Poppy, local Prides provide a place of acceptance and friendship, and rare visibility for LGBT relationships in their neighbourhoods.

"I volunteer for Pride in my town every year," she says. "There's a handful of lesbian volunteers; they're all older than me. I get so much support from being with them, and from straight allies too. I can walk along holding hands with my partner and my son, and no one bats an eyelid. People smile at us as we walk through town, just like we're normal people - because we are."