When I came out in my early twenties, the idea of a Pride march seemed naff and cheesy. I didn’t see the point of watching people march down the street, let alone do so myself. The cutting edge of queer activism seemed far from this corporate-sponsored event. Mardi Gras was something I had only seen in snatches on the television news, a little illicit, to be sure, but less appetising than the dance parties at which I spent my weekends. But when I finally did march at Pride a decade later, I discovered what so many knew before me: community matters.
Last year, for the first time, I marched in a Pride parade with my partner and then-seven year old daughter with a group of rainbow families. We arrived early to the marshalling area, finding our group in the crowd. For the next hour, we glued signs with glitter, rainbow confetti and balloons in a state of feverish anticipation. I had no idea what marching in a parade would feel like, let alone how people would respond to our family at an event that often emphasises rather more adult activities.
Finally, we got the word from a marshall to move, and began the slow walk to the parade proper. As we stepped onto the road, the noise was deafening. We walked hand in hand as a family, with my daughter carrying a sign that said “let my mums get married.” As we marched down the street, the crowd cheered, and numerous people stopped us to get a photo of my daughter’s sign. It was clear that her simple message—which I should note was her idea—resounded with the crowd, so much so that it made it onto the news that night. As we marched, I felt light, lifted up by the well wishes of the crowd. I squeezed my partner’s hand tight, and we beamed at each other in elation.
What I never expected from Pride was how good it felt to march. We live our lives swimming in a sea of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, so much so that it can feel overwhelming. It is not enough that we are far from legal and social equality, we must also face a constant stream of newspaper articles and political cartoons (I’m looking at you, The Australian) that denigrate the LGBT+ community. The vitriolic rhetoric directed at Safe Schools Coalition has attacked the whole community, not just a mere education program.
But what Pride celebrates is the great diversity of our community, all of whom were on display as we marched. From the Dykes on (motor) Bikes to the leather-clad bears, the sparkling glittery drag queens, sex workers holding red umbrellas, trans people, bisexuals, asexuals, poly people, families, anarchists, religious organisations, scantily-dressed go-go boys and much, much more, the LGBT+ community takes in every part of humanity. Rainbows in every form are everywhere, for good reason—and it is beautiful to behold. Just being in a space where every LGBT+ person is accepted in their entirety feels good, a safety in numbers. And this is not only something I want for myself and my partner, it is something that I want for my daughter, who must navigate a playground in which having queer parents is far from normal.
After the parade and a well deserved cool drink, we left the crowds and caught a tram home, back into heterosexual space. And yet, on the tram, everyone looked just a little bit queerer, from the young man with his mum to the apparently heterosexual couple snuggling in front of us. Any of them could have been LGBT+, or part of the crowd cheering us as we walked down the street. The safety of a majority LGBT+ space followed us, making the world seem a little kinder, a little more accepting of our little family. Maybe if my daughter gets her wish - “let my mums get married” - we’ll see a little more of that outside of Pride, too.