This weekend, I had the amazing opportunity to march at Pride in London. To think that this time last year I was at my first ever Pride, it was mind-blowing. It meant an early start on my first Saturday off in months, but it wasn't long before the excitement shook off any tiredness. That and checking the Weather app every 5 minutes to keep up to date on our chances of marching through a storm as keeping my mind off of how I should be back in bed!
In the wake of recent events, particularly in the aftermath of Orlando, I had had doubted whether I we should take part so visibly; wouldn't it be better to be a part of the crowd? Wouldn't it be better to be less visible and (feel)more safe? This questioning lasted all of 10 minutes before I answered my own questions. No. Pride is about standing up to be counted. Pride is the time when the whole LGBT community takes over their cities' and says "we are here. We will not hide. We will not be intimidated. We are not going anywhere".
And I have never been more proud.
I think best investment I possibly could have made was a £5 flag that definitely actually costs somewhere near 10p*. But being able to hold that flag high, to march under it and wave it for all of our community was worth it. I finally understand the reverence for military "colours" and the pledge Americans make to flag every morning in school. A flag is just a piece of material at the end of pole. But it is that and so much more. It is history and it is, too often, sacrifice. It is the very epitome of Pride, in every sense of the word. It is the rainbow stripes on your face and on the over-priced piece of material but it is that chest-swelling moment, the feeling of belonging and it is remembering your history. As we started along the parade route, seeing so many thousands of people lining the route, with flags and whistles and cheers genuinely bought tears to my eyes.
Pride has made it even more apparent to me that we, the current generation of the LGBT community, need to learn our history and appreciate where we have come from. We have to remember that the huge presence at Pride (over 40,000 people in the parade alone) from corporations, individuals and from the State did not happen accidentally or organically. Previous generations fought, so incredibly hard, for the recognition and acceptance we experience today. And if we do not learnt the lessons of the past, we cannot continue that momentum and if we are not careful we will slide backwards. Our approach to activism must be intersectional. The rise in xenophobia and racism - especially in the wake of the divisive Brexit debate - has emboldened bigots and the far-right. We must fight this at every opportunity.
We must be proud of ourselves but we must also make ourselves proud in continuing the legacy of the heroes that came before us.
*Honestly, if you ever get the opportunity to be a part of any Pride celebration buy a flag. I cannot recommend it enough. Just buy it online before you go.