This past July I visited Pride in London for the very first time. The experience was totally incredible and I loved seeing so many people surrounded by friends, family, and love. This was my first time seeing glitter tossed and designed on every person who walked past. The large waves of colorful clothing made the crowd seem like a rainbow ocean. The feeling in the air was pure excitement. I had never been to such a fabulous display of love and support before Pride in London. It was amazing, I didn’t see a mean spirit in sight.
“The beauty of standing up for your rights is others see you standing and stand up as well.” – Cassandra Duffy
I wanted to write this blog as a way to show people that no matter where you come from, or what your background was like, or who you love, you can always find a support system and a group of people that will love you and care for you no matter what, especially no matter how large or small the city. So, this blog will compare what Pride is like in my hometown of Knoxville, USA and here in London.
Firstly, Knoxville’s population (187,500 in 2018) is significantly smaller than London’s (8,787,892 in 2018). Secondly, (and the saddest part) Knoxville is located in Tennessee, a very southern and conservative state. Topics like LGBTQA+ rights, trans rights, marriage equality, and even sex education in schools do not get discussed. Many folks in the community are heavily discriminated against through the legal system, and it is an ongoing battle that we are trying to fight.
My first time at Knox Pride was during my third year of college at the University of Tennessee manning a stall at the event. I was on the executive board for SEAT (Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee). SEAT holds events throughout the year on topics ranging from sexual assault to sex education within the LGBTQA+ community.
Knox Pride really focuses on bringing awareness and education to the outside community. There are stalls from various sponsors attempting to show people that they can find help if they need it. The event is based around helping those who feel they cannot find help, while educating the greater public on the community and their identities.
The Knox Pride parade of course is fabulous, however, it does not last 5 hours like the one in London. I find it so exciting to see friends and neighbors come together in support of one another while being able to express themselves and do it in a safe space. The 1 day event is truly there to provide a safe environment for those in Knoxville and the surrounding cities.
Pride in London
This year was my first time at Pride in London and as you can imagine it was vastly different to what I was used to in Knoxville. The parade was massive and took 5 hours just to get everyone through the route. I also found that the event itself was less educational than Knoxville. However, I assume this is because there is a wider support network and better education on LGBTQA+ topics in London than in Tennessee.
The event was all about loving and supporting your friends in the community and around you. It was about having fun in a safe space where everyone could be themselves free from judgement or discrimination. It provides a place that is 100% inclusive. Pride in London was truly a celebration of LGBTQA+ folks, and as one of their mission statements reads, “to provide a platform to continue the fight for equality and to challenge prejudice.”
How to support LQBTQA+ Folks at Pride
As a supporter of the LGBTQA+ community I sometimes find myself wondering how I can be a better ally and supporter for these folks. An article from Mashable has some great pointers I believe every ally should take into consideration. The first point is to remember what the meaning of Pride is. It is important to remember that the first Pride was a riot, and a march to protest against a homophobic society. The Huffington Post also wrote that those who are not in the community need to use their voice of privilege to amplify the voice of others. Pride is for the LGBTQA+ community, and not simply to make a spectacle.
Overall, I recommend that those who are not part of the LGBTQA+ community who attend Pride do so in a respectful and meaningful manner. Go and support those in the community. Go and be an active ally. But above all go and be a voice for those who have not found their voice yet.
I attended Pride with a large group of friends from Westminster. I asked them to share their experiences in London versus at home.
Pride in London vs in Honduras
“Honduras is very closed on this topic [Pride & LGBTQA+ folks]. So when someone is in the community they don’t show it because they will be criticised for it. Sadly, our society doesn’t accept that yet. There is a handful of people who accept the community but not all of them. So we don’t celebrate Pride yet. My favorite aspect about the Pride in London was seeing everyone come together. It was so fun and colorful. No one criticized each other and you could be yourself and that is something that I wish we had in Honduras.” – Jenny from Honduras
Pride in London vs in Rome
“I really like the Pride in London because it was promoted in advance and they used the Tube station stops to do that. I wish the event would have been more cohesive because in Rome after the parade we all going to the front of the Colosseum where there is a meeting point. However, I loved how open minded London’s Pride was!” – Elisa from Rome
London – A place of support
The great part of living in such a highly supportive city like London means that support of the LGTBQA+ community trickles down into various aspects of life, like studying and working. Studying at the University of Westminster means that students from all backgrounds have access to support. The university offers counseling support, student societies, and they even host events for the community and its supporters like this one last February titled, ‘What it Takes to be LGBTI and Proud.’
So, no matter what you believe, who you love, or what you do; Westminster, along with fellow friends and allies, are there to support you every step of the way.
“Self love is the greatest middle finger of all time.” -Suhail Chauhan