|Picture credit: Pride Scotia|
This Saturday is Pride Scotia, which takes place in Edinburgh city centre every year in June. This year, I'll be going along for the first time ever, and this is why:
For most of my life, pride has felt like a bit of a strange word to me. It's not one that I've felt that I especially identified with or needed. I've never felt especially "proud" to be who I am (in this context, a cisgender queer/pansexual woman). I guess that stems from a long-held belief that my gender identity and sexuality are my own personal business, to be shared only with those in my circle of family and friends that I choose to speak with about it. If I were to choose my own adjective for how I feel about my sexuality and gender identity, it would probably be "comfortable". However, I don't think LGBT Comfort will be replacing LGBT Pride any time soon!
So why has this changed? I suppose I've known for a long time that many people hold homophobic and transphobic views, and that there are well over 70 countries around the world where same-sex relationships are illegal. However, on a personal level, I'd never had any serious or long-term relationships with other women or transgender people, and in a way that shielded me from the realisation that an awful lot of people seem to think I should feel ashamed about the feelings I have and the people that I love, and unfortunately that includes people in the city where I live, and even people that I know personally.
Can I give examples of this? Oh, yes. When I've dated cisgender men, I've never had anyone, least of all someone I considered a friend, tell me they'd like to watch whilst we had sex, which happened to me and my girlfriend last year. Yes, it was meant as a "joke", but it wasn't funny. It demeaned our relationship (which meant a lot to me) to the status of something to be laughed at, something that was less significant, real and important than a heterosexual relationship. It hurt. I've also been the target of more stereotypical homophobic abuse, including verbal abuse and physical assault, most frequently while walking in Edinburgh, both alone and with a partner. I've even experienced my girlfriend being sexually assaulted and groped in front of me at a dance night by a large and intimidating group of men who thought it was "just a bit of fun" to harrass two women they perceived as lesbians.
More commonly, when I've mentioned girlfriends or ex-girlfriends, some people, including people I've known for years, become surprised and/or confused. Some people (in Britain, in the twenty-first century) still seem to think that people must be either straight or gay, and don't seem have even a basic grasp of bisexuality (which I no longer identify with in any case), let alone pansexuality. Some people also seem to think that women who date other women only look a certain way, and that apparently does not include me. These attitudes are dated and more than a little homophobic. In addition to this, I have also experienced the repeated microaggressions of those in my circle of family and friends who refuse to acknowledge or discuss my same-sex relationships, despite the fact that they've had no such problem when I've dated cisgender men. This is not to say that they are bad people or even that they are aware of how they are discriminating against people in same-sex relationships, but it doesn't change the fact that their actions are hurtful.
I'm tired of it. In my late teens and early twenties, I coasted along on the assumption that basically everyone where I lived was okay with queer sexuality and that homophobic abuse wasn't really a problem any more. I was wrong. Over the last couple of years, I've been shown many times that people think I should be ashamed of who I am rather than proud, and sadly this includes people whom I've considered friends as well as strangers. I'm well aware that there are people in countries and communities around the world who endure far worse prejudice and harrassment, and even legal consequences, than I do, but I believe human rights should be universal for everyone, everywhere, and that by taking part in Pride Scotia I'm one small part of a far larger, worldwide movement in support of LGBTQIA rights.
So maybe pride isn't the word that I'd pick given free choice in the matter, but it'll do. I'll be out there on Saturday for the first time in my life on a Pride march, and I hope that wherever you are in the world, you'll consider dong the same, whether as an LGBTQIA person yourself, as a friend/ally of someone you know, or just a supporter of human rights.