I realise that Pride and Manchester Pride in particular is not everyone’s cup of tea. However if that then means that some of them express their views quite strongly and is only about pointing out the faults and failings and really had no suggestions or thoughts that are constructive and helpful then don’t read any further and don’t use this as another avenue to do that please. This blog is for my very wonderful and loyal readers. They have read my published works and decided that they want to keep hearing about what I think on a whole range of subjects.
I believe in Pride. My very first Pride was in my home city of Edinburgh. In fact it was the very first Scottish Pride and there was a real buzz and an energy of being part of the history of Gay Men and Women in Scotland. This was in 1995 which I know to some of you is going to seem like a really long time ago. To me it sometimes feels like it was just yesterday.
Interestingly as far back as 1988 an organisation known as the Scottish Homosexual Rights Group had a sort of precursor to Pride which they called the Lark In The Park. Which when I first heard about thought was just such a charming and lovely name. Not only that but it was held in Princes Street gardens. Which is the lovely well kept and tended gardens at the foot of Edinburgh Castle and is right smack in the centre of the city.
I am very proud of my scottish heritage. When I heard that it was just added to the very long list of reasons why and it was about LGB people. There was no T back then. Please let me clear. That is not me saying there were no transexual people back then. There were and working in a Gay bar it has been a blessing and honour for me to have met some of these extraordinary individuals. I will the details of that for a blog in the future. I hope that has clarified things. Back to Pride.
As I mentioned I worked in a gay bar it was called QTs and there was a cabaret/ stripper stage area and tables and chairs for drag shows and such called Insinuendos. It was my first job after coming out. Owned by a close personal friend who had a soft spot for me. He was also highly respected in the Gay community and did so much behind the scenes in raising money for The Waverley Trust. Which I believe may have been the very first hospice for those with HIV and AIDS in 1989. As Edinburgh had the reputation of being the AIDS capital of Europe. Many of whom were not LGB but rather heroine addicts or more precisely smack addicts. A cheaper and far nastier version of heroin that flooded the market and caused a major health crisis. So yet again my list grew even longer.
Anyway QTs was chosen to have a float on the very first Pride Scotia in the summer of 1995 and we were spectacular. I won’t mention else specifically I shall speak about me for a moment. The manager had this idea of a Gay Heaven. So the only thing I had to wear was a gold lame loincloth. Cut just short enough as not to be pulled up on charges of Public Indecency on any other occasion. Then he had managed to aquire a pair of wings which were made from swan’s feathers. They were antique and made before swans were protected. They were huge and heavy. As the tallest and fittest member of staff. I had been in the Army remember. I got to wear these amazing wings. They span was approx 4ft wide. In other words the base of the wings extended from the bottom of the harness at the small of my back. Backwards for about 4ft and then went upwards for another 5ft. I kind of L shape towering over my head. I have no idea where he managed to get them but without them I think Gay Heaven wouldn’t have been as wonderful. Oh and just one other detail with the gold lame loincloth we were spray painted from head to toe in gold paint. Which in the gorgeous summer shine glittered and shone with pride. Pun most definately intended. So a bevvy of golden cherubs. Then we had a swing beautifully decorated naturally upon which was a well known drag queen. Suspended over a paddling pool filled with freezing cold water. As the parade moved along the cherubs through beanbags to onlookers to hit a target next to the swing. That would release a mechanism to disengage the swing seat sending the dear beloved drag queen in all of her finery into a pool of freezing cold water and bottles of water for the cherubs as the parade went on for several hours. They estimated that there were 3000 people turned up to show their support. It was such a special day. Historical.
To repeat my comment from earlier I am a believer in Pride. I believe that despite what some people have been led to believe there is still work to be done in countries around the world were being gay is a crime that could result in death. Far better informed organisations have masses of information about all of that. I don’t need to add anything more.
Quick wizz bang wallop in the Gay Tardis travelling forward 25 years to the latest Manchester Pride.
Here are some of my thoughts and observations.
So here are what I have called the not so lovely moments I had.
A barman at one point when I trying to find a step of something just to sit, rest and centre myself for a few moments. As the pred pride cocktails just suddenly drained me of my energy. However there was a miscommunication and this barman I was seeking some support of shouted me and ended a sentence with two words ‘end of’. I didn’t share that opinion as I hadn’t made a reply. However I knew enough that for me to say one more word would not have been good at all. So for the next 30 mins I stood and composed a letter to his manager and only the first little bit is saying how that made me feel but there will be more details in a future blog when they hopefully will have sent me a response.
The next not so marvellous moment happened moments later as I was pushing my way against the crowd to return to my friends. Oh and by the way for anyone who remembers the guy in the pink glitter helmet with attached plastic water bottles complete with tubing leading a closed valve on an additional piece of tubing that I sucked on and kept hydrated all day. It was me. Suddenly a woman I’d never seen before in my life grabbed my tube. I looked at her and said ‘Do you want something from me?’ taking back the tube before she had a chance to put it in her mouth. She said ‘Yes.’ Then a pause for just a couple of seconds and I replied ‘So ask me then?’ She looked a bit dazed for a moment and then managed ‘May I have a drink of your water please?’ I replied if you will give me your word that at the soonest opportunity after this you make a donation to Macmillan Cancer Support then yes you may. She agreed. She sucked. The said and this is no word of a lie, ‘Yuck it’s fizzy?’ To which I said. ‘Well you didn’t ask if it was still or sparkling did you darling?’ Again she put on this dazed look before I continued. ‘I do believe the word you are searching for is Thank you.’ She may have said but I had already turned me back with my inner drag queen doing the a slow and exaggerated eye roll inside my head as I made my way back to my friends. Who I had howling with laughter when I told them the story. So to the lady whose rudeness was quite something I thank for giving me that moment to make my friends laugh.
The last point of the not so marvellous list. Notice that I did say it was a short list, is that my friends are residents and my observation was that precious little evidence to assure me that any thought or consideration had been given to their needs. There was a WiFi black spot outside the gate. I was blind because one of my contact lenses had popped out. This was before I arrived. It was because I needed to use the phone that I bring it up. After a few attempts at remembering their flat number. It had been over two years with COVID and lockdowns remember. If one them hadn’t come down to empty a bin I could have been there for another 30 mins.
Is there any representation of local residents on the committee or have you reached out some other way and give them some assurances?
Now onto the far more pleasant and interesting moments from pride Part One. Not only did I have my helmet but also my new dancing shoes. Gold lame with soles that light up and you charge with with a USB micro split cable. One for each shoe. Then with a press on a switch on the inside. There is a range of colours and they flash. So this all goes to my point of view that you get out of Pride what you put into it. It just so happens that it takes place on or around my birthday. When I arrived here in 2006 I commented how wonderful it was for this city to put on such a marvellous event for my birthday. Which of course my friends immediately replied with ‘Tom shut the fuck up with your silly non-sense. They had gotten to know me a little by this point I think. I knew there was no malice or ill will in those words just us taking the piss out of one another the way that friends or what Armistead Maupin in Tales of the City referred to as a logical family as opposed to a biological family.
A wore a hole in my last dancing shoes so they did need to change. So I thought go the whole hog. I love them. I don’t care if anyone doesn’t. My friends just rolled their eyes and went ‘What Now?’ So I bent down pushed the switch and showed them. They applauded. I choose to think for still being the first to make a fool of myself in public. Isn’t that the best way to raise money for charity. Me, my helmet and my new dancing shoes raised a few more pounds for MacMillan Cancer Support. To all the honour pledge people who were showing the lovely spirit of Manchester Pride. I hope your selfies with the guy in the gayest helmet on display that day. I hope it will make you smile and remember the day. Thank you for that.
Which leads me nicely to my final lovely moment or what I have chosen to name the bloody mess of a human outside New York, New York where, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.. Has probably been responsible for raising more money for people living with HIV and AIDS for at least a hundred years in Manchester. I’m told, by those in the know, that she only drinks pints of formaldehyde these days. She’s had a harness implanted on her back. The cute boys who are her staff click her in wheel her away to a waiting cab and whisk her away to an undisclosed location to begin the recovery for next year.
Let me end by saying this with a swelling of Pride for a city that after years of itchy feet and awful life choices I called home and have made me feel so welcome ever since. Manchester Pride are committed to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ in Greater Manchester and beyond. In addition are part of a global movement to face the challenges of discrimination and inequality faced by all of us who are LGBTQ+.
Growing over 50 years now. Estimated attendances since 2015 are 200,000 and over £1.5 million pounds raised.
Now it may be Mark and Farhana spearheading the team responsible. They would be the first to admit that none of it would be possible without the help of a veritable army of volunteers who make the magic happen. So my biggest thanks and with buckets of applause, gratitude and love are coming through the ether with so many feels any second now.
Bravo. Bravo. Bravo. I’m already feeling a tingle of excitement for 2023.