I’ve been to Pride before, but I’ve never been part of the parade. This all changed this weekend when as a member of the burgeoning LGBT+ Network at BU (with support of James Palfreman-Kay (Equality & Diversity Adviser) and Ian Jones (Head of Regional Community Partnerships)) we joined forces with Bournemouth football club to host a float, forming part of this year’s BorneFree parade, and (if I may say) vividly demonstrated the university’s Fusion policy, and ethic.
Emotions were high as most of the float revellers (that’s us) were newbies! How would it all go? What would it be like to be the subject of so much attention? Would there be counter Pride protests? How would we be perceived as representing BU and Bournemouth AFC?
Would the experience be a disappointment, or would it be anything like the life affirming end of the film Pride, when at gay pride in London in 1985 the parade convoy is led by chapters of Welsh miners who supported gay rights, in response to LGSM’s support of the miners’ strike, leading to a union block vote at the Labour party conference, and eventual changes in the law working towards gay and lesbian equality?
It’s wonderful to report that the event surpassed my most extravagant expectations. While I did see some protests (of an event this size, its inevitable that there would be some), the overwhelming feeling was one of harmony, a sense of uplifting, and senses of immensity: the saturation of the town for one incredible day, where everyone seems to be your friend.
Being part of the parade, and having the luxury of being conveyed on a flat bed lorry, with pulsating music and lots of ‘tasteful’ revelry exhibited by the BU and the Bournemouth AFC team, there was plenty of time to look out into the crowds lining the route from East Cliff to the Triangle, a journey of over an hour. Key moments I will remember are. The two older guys with their beloved dog, all dressed in rainbow flag costumes, to the hilt (and then some). The guy with rainbow make up and the beard who seemed to be moving up and down the parade filming everything. The wonderful families who clearly had thought about the pride theme, with parents and children sporting rainbow flags, and rainbow make up. So many people with rainbow flags draped over their shoulders, as if forming a super hero cloak, which can protect you from everything, and gives you your uniqueness. The distant onlookers from far away windows, who we spotted: “look over there!” and we cheered on waving directly at them, in a moment of passing union. Old, young, many diverse people waving catching your eyes. The vicar at the back door of the church, who was waving so enthusiastically, that you thought: “He’s going to strain a muscle”. Diverse audiences, many who you might not think would support LGBT equality, overturning cultural expectations, avidly participating, looking back over to you to share that single moment of equality, exchange, and often humour.
We waved back to so many wonderful people. Never before have the immortal words of AIDS youth activist Nkosi Johnson been so resonant. “We are [all] human beings. … Just like everybody else, we are all the same.” That’s something that you don’t always realise, in todays troubling times. Pride isn’t a bubble, it’s a moment to reset, and realign our thoughts on each other and everyone. We can’t make it all year, although I suspect the planning of Pride takes that long, but what we can do is reach out, form alliances and build bridges, not only in an academic and cultural sense, but also in a human and empathetic sense.
This year’s Bournemouth Pride may not have been exactly like the euphoric ending of the film Pride set in London 1985 (and probably I was the only one on our float old enough to have (theoretically) been there at that time), but more importantly this sense of euphoria was nurtured as much by the onlookers made up of very diverse audiences, as much as those that formed part of the parade or the event. This interchange and dialogue, is an important factor of what makes Pride so unique. See you there next year.