Walking with Pride

BCN 125 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 125, June 2014

It’s Summer and Pride season is well and truly upon us. If you’re thinking of walking in a Pride parade with your local bi group here’s a list of things to consider before making your decision.

First of all there are some great reasons to take part in Pride:
* It’s fun!
* It’s a chance to celebrate your sexuality and feel proud of who you are in public.
* It can make you feel part of your local bi community.
* Walking in front of hundreds or thousands of people who are applauding and supporting you is an amazing experience. It gives you a massive adrenaline rush.

You can also:
* Help promote bi visibility. This is especially important when you consider that you will probably be the only bi group in the whole parade. You are helping to create a record in history that bisexuals exist and they were there.
* Contribute to other people’s awareness and understanding of bisexuality. For example, last Summer someone asked a member of BiPhoria what the ‘b’ in LGBT stood for whilst we were waiting for the parade to start.
* Show anyone watching who feels alone or isolated because of their bisexuality that they are not the only ones.
* Help promote your local bi group and let anyone who might be interested in attending that you exist.
* Show the general public that you are here. That your voice will be heard and that bisexuality is normal. Not something to be hidden away and be ashamed of.
* Be a part of busting some myths about bisexuality by doing things like holding banners saying it isn’t a phase.

However taking part in a Pride parade is not a simple or easy thing to do both physically or mentally. There is a lot of waiting and standing around as you have to get to the holding area at the start line at least an hour beforehand. Then there is the walk itself which involves a lot of stopping and starting and waiting to move forward. You will be very tired by the end of it, especially if the weather is very hot, very cold and/or very wet!

The experience can lead to you feeling a huge array of emotions but sadly these might not always be pleasant ones. It can be very daunting and nerve wracking to walk in front of so many people whilst publicly declaring your sexuality. You may also have to walk past anti-LGBT protesters during the route. (The police and event marshals will hopefully keep these people contained and in a cordoned off area as far away from the route as possible!) Although for some seeing anti-LGBT protesters can actually have a positive effect as you can see how they are in the minority and how unwanted and unpopular they are! Boooo!

Unfortunately Prides have a history of bi erasure in their language, signage, promotional materials etc. They tend to be gay and lesbian dominant too and this can create feelings of fear and/or general unease. You may even feel unwanted. You may experience negative attitudes towards you or biphobia in the form of verbal abuse. (For example, someone shouting “Greedy!” at you.) Others may question you about bisexuality.

Another thing to think about is that people marching can feel very tried,  overwhelmed and frustrated by the general public’s inability to recognise you are and what you’re marching for. Everyone can easily identify the bank or radio station, but a large number of people might look at you blankly or with an air of confusion. It can hurt to get noticeably less cheers and applause than the bigger, more well known players!

Finally, taking part in Pride might out you to someone who doesn’t know about your sexuality yet. This can happen long after the event and taking part will also involve a lot of photos being taken of you.  Some people will ask permission but many people in the crowd won’t be able to or will just snap away regardless. You will not have any knowledge or ability to give consent as to where these photos are uploaded; which is something I didn’t realise until I saw lots of pictures of me on the Internet that I didn’t want to be there! You can always ask people to take them down, but there will probably be other photos of you out there somewhere that you don’t know about or can’t see yourself because they’re on someone’s private social network account. Who knows whether your boss/co-worker/neighbour/relative etc. will see them one day?

So if you want to take part, what should you do?
* Check the weather and bring umbrellas, ponchos, sun cream etc.
* Wear flat and comfortable shoes.
* Bring a small bag you can carry round with you comfortably for hours.
* Take some food and drink – there are unlikely to be any places to get refreshments in the holding area by the start line and you will be waiting there a long time before the parade starts.
* Purple it up! Buy or borrow purple umbrellas, t-shirts, wristbands etc.
* Stand out. Last year I bought purple bubble wands from the pound shop along with a broom handle to attach my bi flag to. Both proved a big hit with the crowd and the photographers.
* Ask your friends and family to come and support you – and to take photos of the bi group for you if they are in the crowd. Find out where along the route they will stand otherwise you’ll never spot them!
* Be prepared for the roller coaster of emotions you might feel and the post adrenaline rush come down. Plan a nice relaxed day for the day after. Plan something fun to do one or two days after the parade so you have something exciting to look forward to.

If you don’t want to walk in a Pride parade but still want to contribute in some way there is a lot you can do. You can post on social networking sites and tell people to come and watch and cheer on the bi group. You can send messages of support to the people taking part, and go and watch the parade and cheer them on. You could also meet them at the finish line with refreshments and go out for a drink or meal together afterwards. You can also help make signs and banners for them to carry around during the parade. If you felt like doing a bit of armchair activism you can message Pride organisers and tell them they should use bi and trans inclusive language instead of doing things like calling it gay pride all the time if they are guilty of this!

Hope you all have a wonderful Summer.

Hannah