I have never marched at Pride. Does that make me a bad gay? I think it might. Being gay is just part of who I am, I don't go on marches for having brown eyes or being dyslexic. In recent years London's Gay Pride it has become much less of a political rally and more a party parade with very buff men in very small shorts dancing to Kylie. Now, don't get me wrong, I can get down in gold hot pants with the best of them - I just have never felt the need to do it whilst waving a rainbow flag through Central London. I grew up in Portsmouth, which is pretty homophobic. I was the only lesbian I knew for years (goes without saying that I couldn't have been further in the closet). I was 20, living in dizzy heights of London when I came out. I remember making the decision that I had to do it, one morning whilst crying in the shower (sexy/tragic!). It's probably the bravest thing I have ever done, people think being a Stand Up Comic is brave but thats nothing compared to the fear of being disowned by your family and friends. I was lucky, that didn't happen. My Mum was concerned for me, I remember her saying she was 'worried that I would have a harder life' but this seemed madness to me. I was out, I was excited and I knew there were enough Gays campaigning and marching that I could just go out and enjoy the Soho night life in all its glory. I didn't need to march at Pride.
One thing I do love is a gay bar, its a wonderful thing (please note I mean for gays and their pals not for your Hen do, oh and if for some reason your Hen do does end up in a gay bar, be nice to the lesbians, I appreciate you are there to dance with the pretty boys but its our place too, thanks.). I remember the first time I walked into the now deceased Popstarz at The Scala in Kings Cross- it was an indie night with an RnB room which is Heaven to me- don't get confused, Heaven is another London gay bar but they only really play cheesy pop. Anyway, I am 20, I am in Popstarz, I am gay and everyone knows- except Nan, she'd be told a few years later and not give a crap. I was overwhelmed, there were literally hundreds of gays, emotions washed over me joy, excitement, relief... I think relief was the biggest emotion, that I wasn't a freak, that were loads of people just like me. That I had found my people. My tribe. And I danced, I danced until my legs ached and I could take no more vodka.
When the news of the Orlando shootings at 'Pulse' flooded in, my Facebook became a wave of sadness - although I must say only really from my gay mates. Sure, the straighties 'liked' the status' or did that little tear emoji but very few of them wrote their piece. I wondered why? Do they not care as much as I do? Is it not filling their every thought as they get on with their day?
Because it was about homophobia? The thing my Mum feared would make my life harder. I knew my mates cared but maybe to them it was just another horrific terror attack that was happening to other people overseas. To me, it was personal. The people in Pulse were my people. My tribe. The location of the attack, it happened on our turf, a gay bar, the one place we go where we can dance, grind, flirt, snog and not worry about someone shouting 'dyke' or faggot'. Now I know some of you lovely straight lefty allies reading this might assume that people shouting homophobic slurs are a thing of the past on our little island but it's not. In fact since the Equal Marriage Bill passed the number of reported homophobic attacks have gone up. Which is terrifying. It can be a lot worse for LGBT people overseas, in Russia Gay Pride marches are banned, in Uganda can get you up to 14 years in prison for engaging in a sexual act with someone of the same sex and in some parts South Africa Corrective rape (the belief that raping a gay woman will cure them of their homosexuality) is basically ignored by police.
I am one of the lucky ones. So lucky. I live with my amazing partner, in a tolerant city, I have a wonderful supportive family, I am out at work every night on stage. I am one of the lucky ones. It struck me this week that is the very reason I should be marching for people that aren't as lucky as me. So this year I will march, I will wave my flag. It's taken me ten years of being out to realise how very very important it is. After decade of enjoying the rights I have because of those who marched before me and I have finally found my pride.