A friend shared this on Facebook and I started to share it. Then I realised that this post, more than any other about Pulse, has hit me. I couldn’t just share it, and what I had to say was too long for a Facebook post.
This blog was called Proud Ankylosaur because of my AS. I’m outspoken about it because I wanted to spread awareness. But it’s also called Proud because I’m Gay. I haven’t posted much about it in the last year, but now I think that I need to.
It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come, or how hard we fought. Even when we weren’t “being political” just saying “I’m gay”, correcting a gender pronoun, or even dressing up to go out ran the risk of repercussions. Reading a room became second nature.
I can remember being at school, worried about anyone finding out that I was gay. Section 28, banned the “promotion of homosexuality”. But it didn’t define what “promotion” was. So schools avoided the topic entirely. The only gay people I saw in the world were effeminate men, with their high pitched voices and swooshy walks.
I can remember being terrified that it would get back to my homophobic and racist parents. And it did eventually. I remember trying to get somewhere to live. Being 16 years old and homeless, thankful for my school friend who accepted me no matter what a pretentious, entitled little git I was. I thank whoever or whatever is watching over me for bringing her into my life.
When I first came out it was illegal for me to be gay. The age of consent was still 21. I can remember the celebrations when it dropped to 18. The arguments and fear for our young people. I can remember being one of the young people and wondering when they were going to protect me from hate. “It’s legal now, but definitely not equal, there’s still something wrong about it that the law has to protect us from.”
I can remember the fear of AIDS, a sheer, visceral terror that any sexual contact could mean a death sentence. And I remember the tears and horror when something went wrong. I remember taking a cocktail of drugs, one every 12 hours, two every 8 hours with food, one every 8 hours on an empty stomach. Cross your fingers and hope that it works, hope that you’re clear. And blood tests every month to make sure.
I can remember going to meetings to try to help Pride On Tyne, and the fear of marching. I can remember having a Pride Picnic on the grass outside the the Civic Centre and then skulking off to the University Hall for line dancing, tea dances and a disco. No marching so that we could keep everyone safe, so that people who hadn’t come out would be able to join us.
I can remember meeting my partner, the man I still love to this day. And knowing that I could never touch him, hold him, and definitely not kiss him in public.
I can remember being jumped on by 4 or 5 kids as I walked to the shops that I could see from my living room window. Having my glasses, cheek and nose broken, and the fear of leaving the house for months afterwards. Looking over my shoulder when I went into town. Jumping at noises and being afraid of everyone.
I can remember the age of consent being equalised, hearing the same “protecting the children” arguments being dug up again. Equating homosexuality with pedophilia.
I can remember never having to worry about military service. Gays couldn’t serve – they’d spend all of their time looking at everyone’s bums! Same Sex Partnerships – Equal but different. Gay parents and test tube pregnancies. Furore after furore, just trying to live your life and convince people that it’s normal.
I thought that we were moving forward. I thought that the fight was nearly over. But I was wrong.
We’re coming into the Pride season. 47 years ago the Stonewall Riots began a movement towards equality. Sometimes it looks like Pride is just a party, but that’s not it’s purpose. It’s a celebration of how far we’ve come, a reminder of how far we have to go, and a political statement to say that we’re not going anywhere.
It’s been a few years since I went to Pride. I always feel out of place as I don’t go out and I’m not the pretty young lad I once used to think I was. But this year I’ll be out. I’ll be walking and remembering, and I’m hoping that you will too.