The worldwide Pride season is now in full swing, with London Pride this coming Saturday. I would be there, if I wasn't out of the country. Last year I partied in Spain, and the year before I could be found celebrating in both London and Bristol. But in between my early years, when my parents would wheel me around the parade in my buggy, and my more recent involvement, there were several years when Pride didn't feature significantly in my life. This article by the heterosexual daughter of lesbian parents got me thinking about who should be included in a Pride march, and what the role of the children of same-sex families is when they grow up.
My memories of Pride as a child are bright, colourful and noisy. I remember men dressed in drag with giant multi-coloured eyelashes, whistles to blow and horns to beep, glitter, feathers and laughter. I shouldn't downplay the presence of politics either, as Pride isn't all about the (sometimes transgressive) fun - angry speeches and rousing chants are just as important too. The last Pride I attended before my adult years was when I was about fourteen. I marched in a band (I have no musical talent, but percussionists were welcome so long as you could keep beat) which made it up onto the main stage at Trafalgar Square. Afterwards I was awarded entry into the VIP area and was disproportionately pleased when the lead singer in the band Never the Bride sent her girlfriend to ask me where my ridiculously gothic trainers were from (they were black with red spikes: I was a teenager, what can I say?). I also remember gay Conservative MP Michael Portillo being booed from the stage by an audience still furious about Section 28 and resolutely anti-Tory, in any gay-friendly guise.
When I was fourteen, my own sexuality was still a mystery to me. I was a child, and I was proud of my family and happy to be marching for the LGBT+ community. Whatever your own sexual persuasion is, being a member of an LGBT+ family is significant in itself, and your life is likely to have been practically different from someone belonging to a heteronormative family. Stefan Lynch coined a term for this - he calls the children of LGBT+ families 'queerspawn' - recognising that whilst you may not be LGBT+ yourself, your identity is still immersed in queer culture and community and that should be acknowledged.
I used to joke on an online dating profile, that I'd attended more Prides before the age of ten than after the age of sixteen. I'm hoping that the next few years will correct that. There was no particular reason why I stopped attending Pride for a bit. The main one, probably, was that I didn't have anyone to go with: my mothers don't always attend, and in my secondary school years I didn't have friends I could go with instead. Now I'm delighted that 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.
These days there are many people who boycott Pride, disappointed with its commercialisation and de-politicisation, or resentful of the implication that LGBT+ people should only be visible one day of the year - their kisses and hand holding not nearly as welcome in the streets the other 364 days. I think that an opportunity for a community with many disparate individuals to come together, and tell the world that their sexuality and gender are worth celebrating, can only be a good thing. It gives hope to people who are unsure about whether they'll be accepted, and assures them that they too belong in our society.
I believe that there is a definite place in Pride for non LGBT+-identifying people, but that that place should be as allies, on the sidelines, cheering on the marchers, supporting their more personal pride. I think that non-LGBT+-identifying queerspawn probably occupy a slightly different place again, and should be welcome among the marchers. If you've grown up attending Pride, and living among lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people and gay men, your connection to the LGBT+ community, and the many personal and political implications of your existence, don't automatically cease once you enter adulthood.
I'm sad I can't be there this weekend, but to everyone marching - Happy Pride! I'd like to hope everyone feels welcome in some way at Pride, whatever their history and identity is, as long as they in turn want to celebrate the many different kinds of loves that exist in humanity.