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Everybody has a year from their life which stands out as their own ‘Summer
of 69’. For me, that year was 1997. I was 19 and it was my first year on the gay
scene. For the first time ever, I not only had other gay friends but girlfriends
as well. My memories of that year are framed by many late bus rides home,
watching the Hale-Bopp comet overhead getting brighter and brighter.
For the world it was quite a big year too. Labour were back in power, Hong
Kong was given back to China, Versace, Diana and Mother Teresa died and
the Spice Girls were actually cool. But the highlight of the year for me was
certainly my first ever trip to pride. In those days, there weren’t pride events in
every town and in my home city of Oxford, a local pride was still years away.
So a trip to London was quite an adventure and after we had worked out the
underground system, we joined 80,000 people in Hyde Park and ended up at a
massive party in Clapham Common. Gina G, Erasure and the Pet Shop Boys
were on stage and I found myself stood chatting with Zoe Ball in the dance
tent. It was quite a day.
Fifteen years later and ten years of that as an LGBT journalist, it can
sometimes be hard to keep my enthusiasm for pride events. There are over
twenty prides in the area I cover from small events in pub gardens to massive
marches through large cities. But just when I am feeling weary, something
always seems comes along to remind me that prides aren’t just parties in places
I haven’t visited for people I don’t know - they are an essential part of most
LGBT lives. Volunteers work hard all year to produce them and they are the
centrepiece of community life, a chance to see people you haven’t seen for ages
and a time to feel proud of who you are.
This year, writing about the origins of the rainbow flag reminded me that
there was a time when pride was the only day some people felt safe to truly be
themselves. Maybe for some, that is still the case. For me, the thing that makes
pride important is the same today as it was in 1997 - it is the knowledge that
just for one day, we are in the majority.
Happy pride season
Natalie Thorne
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