The last time I walked in a Pride parade I was young. Thirteen, maybe? It was with my church, and I remember purple T-shirts.
I’m a bit older than that now. (Cough, splutter, ahem) And so when we got the offer to march with the Romantic Novelists Association in London Pride, we decided to do it. We thought it was a float, so the fact that we’d be walking was a bit of a surprise…
We met up with other authors. We knew one, Anna Larner, but the rest were new faces. Everyone was nice, and quiet, and, well, very authorish.
Neither Robyn nor I write pure romance. We write books where a romance comes into play among other aspects of genre and plot device. But there’s always a romance in there somewhere, so we fit. We mingled and then made our way, very, very slowly, to the parade route. We walked and stopped, walked and stopped, walked and stopped and waved…
For five hours.
Yes, it took us five hours to go three miles. By the time the parade was done, so was the Pride festival overall. The stages were about done, and the bars were packed to bursting. It was pretty much time for dinner and catching the train home.
But here’s the thing, (and the point):
I was proud to be walking in a Pride parade as a novelist who writes stories for the community. Own voice stories, of love and success and adventure and belonging. I was proud to say yes, I’m here. I’m a wife, a queer woman, a femme, a mum, a writer, a friend. I am these things and I walked with others in the community as a visible part of a world still under attack. I walked with my head held high, smiling and waving and making eye contact with those few standing at the barrier looking less than friendly. I would not look away. I acknowledged the frisson of fear in being in a massive gathering in a city too familiar with hatred solidifying in the form of gunfire and driven bombs, and still I smiled and laughed and chatted. Power comes from defiance.
I walked past the rainbows in the shop windows and yes, there’s the argument against commercialism and such. But I saw companies saying we visibly support the community and in doing so could lose the bigoted customers but we don’t care… Silver lining, maybe, but still true.
I didn’t get to drink or dance or shop. But I got to march, and I got to be reminded of the power being seen in such a way can hold. And that, my friends, is really something. My thirteen year old self could have no idea that such a thing would be the case a (big) handful of years later.
Happy Pride, wherever you are.