Queer and disabled, London Pride 2018

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[image description: Ben is sat at the front with green/blue hair, sunglasses and a black top that says “the future is queer”, he is grinning. Behind him is Dee, a young woman with short brown hair and a white strap tank top, purple trousers and is also smiling. They both have tattoos and are sat on the ground. ]

 

Pride is a time where everyone, regardless of sexuality or gender identity should feel welcomed and… well, proud. This should also stand for those with disabilities and/or mental illness. This however doesn’t mean that everyone should show their pride through partying and parades. Hannah Gadsby says along the lines of that after Pride  “I need to show my pride through the metaphor of a nap”, Pride parades etc aren’t for everyone and I’m beginning to believe that they aren’t for me either.

I went to my first every Pride in London (PiL) 3 years ago, it was the first time I’d been around so many queer people, the first time I’d seen trans people celebrating themselves in public. I got very drunk and very very sunburnt over the course of the weekend but I had an overwhelmingly great time. Now 3 years and a few fun new illnesses later I’ve found that Pride just might not be for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve cried every year (either there or afterwards) from just how comfortable and happy I was, and I’ve had the time of my life. However, this year I used my crutches as I knew I would not be able to go a whole day standing and walking around central London. Trying to get through a half drunk crowd of very loud and pushy people (nothing malicious, they were just excited and it was extremely busy) with crutches was exhausting. It was also 30+ degrees which just drained my energy like I had sprung a leak. People didn’t seem to be that engaged with disability, I had my crutches kicked and pulled from beneath me as I walked, which just makes its harder to concentrate on walking. People didn’t make space, they just shoved past, it was quite anxiety provoking. I know there were things I could have done to avoid the situation but all the same it still happened because I wanted my Pride day to be ‘normal’. As I’m writing this I’ve realised that I’ve not fully accepted the fact I can be queer AND disabled at the same time and that be absolutely fine during an event such as Pride, not just one at a time. I can’t turn my chronic pain and fatigue off and make my legs work properly for the day just because it’s Pride.

I went with my best friend Dee (the gorgeous giant lesbian in the header) who is also disabled so we knew to pace ourselves and sit lots so it was great being with someone who was as aware of their body as I was. As inaccessible as the main parade area was (I am aware that there were accessible parade spots, but we wanted to go into the main Trafalgar Square area to watch the performers so it was easier for us to watch the parade from the end point) we were allowed to go through the accessible entrance (which was at the bottom of the steps up to the accessible platform(?)). We did have to explain to the man that it was the accessible entrance, there was literally a sign there that he hadn’t seen till then. We got onto the disabled platform, which was the main steps in front of the National Gallery, not sure why they chose the steps but hey, the VIP lounge evidently was more important to put on flat ground than the disabled guests. In general Trafalgar Square isn’t the best place for large event to be accessible. They do however have amazing BSL interpreters.

We had a great afternoon watching the performers but couldn’t stay long in the heat. I do think Pride in London has a way to go before it can say its disabled LGBTQIA+ visitors have the same experience as those without disabilities. (Also just a quick thing, it was like 30+ degrees in a large uncovered area with no shade and no breeze and I only saw one place to refill water bottles??)

The best part of my pride weekend however was going to see my friend Jack’s show , with my boyfriend and Dee, on Saturday evening, all pride oriented, a wee bit of a calmer way to celebrate. The highlight of the night was definitely when I was left a voicemail by Jack during a section of their show called “I’m telling someone that I’m proud of them and you’re watching me”. This is where Jack got their phone out and called someone on loud speaker, turns out it was me. It said this, and I’ll never forget it. (Cue me crying in a dark room full of strangers, and again when I listened to it the next day)

“Hi Ben, well done on not answering your phone seeing as you’re in a theatre. I just wanted to give you a call, knowing you were here and that I could just about see you in the dark. And just tell you that I’m really really insanely proud of you for always sticking to your guns and being who you are and facing every day and just being a wonderful human being and being an inspiration to me. And I hope that you know that and I hope that you didn’t need to be told that but just in case you did, here it is. I’m very very very proud of you”

This is what makes me feel proud, that I can have queer friends like this, I left the venue (slightly tipsy and bloody tired) cuddling them in the car home feeling so much love and family. That’s how I want all my prides to end. I want to show my pride through the family I have found and love.

It’s now 2 days since the parade and I’m still in a lot of pain from walking so much and being out in the heat in my binder for so long. I would say it’s worth it but there are also many other ways I can celebrate my pride whilst still putting my health and wellbeing first, like going to a show and supporting my favourite non-binary sibling. I think next year’s Pride will be a bit quieter for me.

Ben x

PS. don’t get me started on PiL allowing TERFs to hijack the parade.
cw for blatant transphobia and transmisogyny: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/07/07/anti-trans-group-allowed-to-lead-pride-in-london-march-after-hijack/  

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