One big rainbow covering the world

Being a gay man, I think it’s only fitting that I celebrate and embrace my sexuality.

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Most LGBT people are faced with obstacles in everyday life that non-LGBT people might not face. Because of the regularity and number of these obstacles, it becomes difficult to differentiate between what is normal and what isn’t.

As we are now in 2016, we presume that being LGBT is finally accepted and we can live as a united world, equal despite our differences.

Up until 1967, consenting sexual activity between two men was illegal. Homosexuality has, however, been around since time began. In some countries today, LGBT people are still criminalised just for being themselves – facing the death penalty, prison, ‘corrective rape’, genital mutilation, and more. Despite this, protesters and activists stand their ground and say enough is enough. Our LGBT siblings around the world continue to fight for equality.

In 1969, after the Stonewall Riots, LGBT rights were thrust into the spotlight across the globe. Marches and picketers stood outside the city hall in Philadelphia trying to get their voices heard. The organisers thought that a peaceful and quiet protest wasn’t enough, so on 28 June 1970 it was decided that in order to be noticed, a march across New York was their only option. This is where the first pride was born.

That first pride march proceeded through 51 blocks of New York, making it the biggest protest in history at that time. But now, when we think of pride, we think of Manchester and San Francisco as these get the most media coverage. However, these prides are the tip of the iceberg in celebrating LGBT communities. 66 other countries are now holding their very own LGBT pride celebrations, which proves how far the fight for LGBT rights has come from that first protest outside a city hall and through the streets.

This year at Manchester Pride, I had an amazing opportunity to meet a man called Dennis from the Netherlands. He has experienced over 10 prides in different cities across the world. I met Dennis in a hotel in Manchester and we sat down together to discuss his personal reasons for attending so many prides.

Dennis explained he travels these cities by himself to get the most of his experiences. He explained, too, that it’s about being true to himself and leaving his home town (a tiny village in the Netherlands) he doesn’t feel like he’s the only “gay in the village”. As he sat across from me I could feel his passion. He realised that it’s about exploring his inner self and embracing who he is. As he began his story, his eyes lit up and he became so very relaxed. He clearly had many memories that he had never really discussed with anyone else.

I wanted to explore the variations of pride, and whether he could compare them in their own different ways. Obviously, being from Holland, he explained Amsterdam Pride to me. He became excited and went into a lot of detail. He said that Amsterdam has canal parades whereas the other parades he had witnessed are all on land. However, he said all prides are a sea of rainbow colour and the atmosphere at each one is electrifying. Buildings decorated with LGBT flags, posters on walls, town mayors and celebrities using their status to increase awareness. People line the streets with excitement. Families bring their young children to educate them on diversity and equality.

Dennis said it’s about meeting new and old faces. He meets so many new friends on his travels and they can celebrate together. America has more of a liberal approach to pride, he said. Madrid was his largest he’d been to, with millions partying on the streets till dawn. Denmark and Prague were the smaller ones he’d visited, while France and Belgium were amazing.

I asked Dennis if he’d ever experienced bigotry or prejudice on his travels. He told me that wherever you go you do see those few picketers shouting religious hate, but the fact that the music drowns them out is rather funny and no one pays any attention to them anyway. Dennis said no matter which country or city he’d been to, pride was always celebrated the exactly the same: an army of flags, drag queens and amazing music with plenty of cheer. The concerts and live bands provide an atmosphere and the people come together as one big family.

After I finished talking to Dennis, I ventured to Canal Street. I spoke to lots of people who again explained to me that pride is about varied expressions of individuality. It’s a time for those who are not able to embrace their sexuality to come alive and be around those who accept everyone. Of course, I did speak to those who were there just to have a good time on beer and dance the night away, but regardless of who’s there and for what reasons, it seems to me that pride is just one big celebration. And it is done with utter perfection. The streets are lined with stalls and information stands. Canal Street bustled in the summer breeze. The smell of hot dogs and chips scented the air. Madonna and Kylie Minogue played loudly else. Smiles were drawn on everyone’s faces. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate pride?

We had people from all walks of life merging together and showing the world that being queer isn’t a choice – it’s about being a person, an individual.

I got to watch some of the Manchester parade. Each float perfectly designed to show off the talents and creativity of those present. Each float had something to say to those who watched the parade go by. The streets of Manchester were filled with such glee and with the sun shining down on the day, what more could someone ask for?

So when you think of pride, don’t just see it as an excuse to get drunk and stay out till the following morning. Just remember everyone who attends has their own personal story and reason for being there. It was the perfect end to a perfect summer.

Dennis has allowed me to share many of his pictures, which I offer here with a few of my own from Manchester Pride 2016.

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