In 1969, the gay community of Manhattan saw its most important moment of liberation to date at ’The Stonewall Inn’, which was a popular gay club in the area. It was so popular because it was the first gay bar in Manhattan that allowed its customers to dance. They had no liquor licence and no running water behind the bar, meaning that empty glasses were swilled out in buckets of water to be used immediately for the next customer. You could only gain access to the bar through one door as there were no fire exits. The main door was always locked and you had to either know the bar owner or prove that you were gay to the bouncer through a small sliding hatch in the door if you wanted to get in. Tickets in would cost $3, which included 2 drinks at the bar. On June 28th 1969, at 1:20am, police forces raided the bar, leaving everybody inside petrified. Don’t forget that at this point, the world was a very different place to what it is today. If their pictures were put into the papers, they would have been ruined. Riot protocol back then was to get everybody outside and line them up according to gender and check their identification, before being taken to the station and being arrested. The police pushed and shoved all of the customers outside onto the street. They were brutal and unforgiving. Something snapped inside of everyone that night. They were tired of being persecuted for just being who they were. People started to push back. They started to shout “GAY POWER!” and sing “We Shall Overcome “. Tires of police wagons were slashed, garbage was set alight and people were fighting. The onslaught lasted for about an hour before the police called for backup and the rioters dispersed. They met in Christopher Park later that night to discuss what had happened and what they were going to do next. This is where the idea of Gay pride was born.
The first march for pride was held on the one year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Starting out in Christopher Park, hundreds of gay, lesbian and transgender people stormed the city, marching through the streets with banners promoting equality for all. Although keeping their wits about them, ready to make a quick exit should the authorities try to intervene, they were loud and proud and making a stand for change. The parade caught on and spread to a lot of major cities in America. Since then, Gay Pride has been a longstanding celebration for the LGBT community every year in thousands of cities throughout the world. This weekend, I and a few friends drove down to Brighton, which, as I’ve mentioned before is known as the gay capital of the UK. As a far cry to the society that we used to live in, gay pride promised a parade fit for a queen to celebrate our freedom and didn’t disappoint. After a long drive down which took twice as long as usual, we arrived in Brighton on the Friday night at 11pm. We went straight to the pub to meet some of my friend’s college mates. We went to the ‘Lion and Lobster’ pub on Silwood Street which has 3 floor and a nice smoking rooftop terrace. We chatted and laughed and sipped our drinks while sat on the roof, meeting new people. Brighton has that feeling to it where you can go to any pub, bar or club alone and leave at the end of the night with 20 new friends. Everyone is friendly and open minded. The good old English weather took the fun away from the rooftop terrace so we moved back to the house where we were staying and had a few more drinks before hitting the sack to prepare ourselves for the long day ahead in the morning. We started the next day at 11am and went for breakfast at the place where we wanted to go on my last visit but was closed. This time, Brighton liked me! The parade was due to start, so I inhaled my bacon sandwich, bought a sailor’s hat and found a spot on the side of the street to wait for the parade to start. I looked to the end of the street and could see a manifestation of balloons, boom boxes and glitter heading my way. With my cider in hand and sailor hat on, I was ready to be loud and proud. The parade was everything I expected it to be: sparkly and fabulous. There were men dressed as women, women dressed as men and even one guy dressed as a bull (not sure why but it was still cool to see!). My favourite float of the parade had to be the ABBA float. They were playing their hit song “Knowing Me, Knowing You”. I was the only one singing alone. I felt like the oldest one there.
After the parade was over, we went to sit in the park with some beers. Looking around, the sense of pride was all around. Most people were sporting the rainbow flag or dressed up with lots of glitter. We chilled out in the sun, chatting and listening to music. After that we went to the beach to take in the sea air and look at the sea. However, England being England, we got too cold and moved on to Kemptown. The organizers had created a ‘Pride Village’ which cost £5 to enter for a wristband. Once inside, we found our watering hole for the night. Sat at what I can only call ‘The Blue Pub’ as I forgot the name, I started to enjoy the night. We sat at a table with some guys who were on a lad’s night out. Just my luck. I go all the way to gay pride and end up with 3 straight guys! Typical! The tequila was flowing and I was having a great time. We carried on drinking until the early hours of the morning before we walked home and continued to drink and have a good time at the house. After that came the morning, where my head was feeling worse for wear yet again. We took a trip to my favourite Mexican place as mentioned in the last Brighton post, where I consumed the mother of all burritos to get rid of the stonking head that I was sporting. It had the opposite effect, as my friends insisted that I drink 3 shots of tequila. The only feeling I got after walking away from the table was pure nausea. Not a single feeling of relief to be found. Oh well. I guess it’s safe to say that whatever happens in Brighton stays in Brighton! It was a very proud moment for me, as I’m sure it was for most people there that day, that we can walk the streets and be comfortable in our own skin. There is still a long way to go in terms of equality. Homosexuality is still illegal in 78 countries around the world, in 5 countries it is punishable by death, in 70 countries LGBT people face prison sentences just for being who they were born to be and people like myself are being criminalized every day. There is still a long way to go to get full equality around the world. It’s not a battle that I personally believe will ever be won, however, there are things that we can do to make a difference. To help make a change in the world we live in for people like myself, your friends or someone in your family, go to http://www.stonewall.org.uk/what_you_can_do/ to get the ball rolling. Just like my last visit to Brighton, it dawned on me that I hadn’t given any thought to my somewhat tragic dating life for the weekend. This time it was different. I tend to go through a 2 month wallowing period after a breakup. It happened with my ex and it has just happened with #3. I don’t consider me and #3 to have had a relationship, however, after he ended it, it brought back the same sadness I had with my ex. Now, I don’t feel that. It has been two months and I do not feel sad about it anymore. We owe it to ourselves to allow time for a breakup to set in and become real. It’s something that I used to shut away and not let happen. Now that I have some experience, I have learned that to feel down or to feel sad is a completely organic motion that you must go through I order to come out of the other side as a better person. I had a great time this weekend and can’t wait for my next trip to Brighton. No matter how many times I do go, I always leave with the same thought on my mind. As much as I do enjoy being part of the scene every now and again, it doesn’t mean that I want it to be part of my social life all of the time. Being loud and proud is fun, just not something that I can do every day. I can’t be sparkly and fabulous all of the time. I am just a person who likes the simple things. It doesn’t take a lot to make me happy. The kind of guy that I want, I am probably not going to meet at an event like Gay Pride or in a gay bar or on Grindr. Been there, done that and got the crap after it ended. The guy that I want and at this point think that I deserve, is sat there now, thinking the same as I do, hoping to be surprised one day by stumbling across someone who wants the same thing that he does:
Laughter, trust and most importantly, love.
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