Ah, the joys of modern technology. I’m actually blogging on an iPhone from the tiny Virgin-branded deep vein thrombosis generator that is a Pendolino while the story in question is still warm (if not actually hot).I’m on my way back from Pride London, where me, the ball-and-chain and my mum had marched, shouted, chanted and sworn across three miles of busy streets cleared for us and a quarter of a million people of similar persuasions. I’ve marched in Pride almost every year for ten years and have found that it had got less and less political and more and more partying over that time. That’s not a bad thing per se, as it reflects the advances in liberation and acceptance we’ve had over that time. But I’m a very political animal and I like a good demo. Anything else is just a walk with strangers and I always feel I should’ve pressured coworkers and friends to sponsor me first. However, this year politics seems to have leapt back onto the gay agenda – yay! – and the march was more political than I’ve ever seen it. Thanks, ‘Dave’ and Nick, for putting the lead back into the gay pencil after years of queers marching in a kind of guilty silence with only Kylie booming out to cover it.
This year, the brothers and sisters and everything in-between were angry. Nobody outside of the Tory and Liberal right are happy about the cuts. Few in our newly cosmopolitan country are happy with the veiled threats to our gay liberty to be heard from the Tories. Fewer still – perhaps people with psychological problems – are happy to hear words of almost-prejudice, hints of curtails of freedom, coming from supposed Liberals. But the crowd had heard them and were annoyed. The painful cuts in services to the worst off, coupled with tax rises on the poorest only, had made them – us – angry. It was a good anger, with a good twisted gay humour behind it. As we marched down Oxford Street, surround by shops owned and run by men who don’t pay tax and don’t pay their staff a living wage, the chants and cat-calls were positively 1970s. I loved it. The march went past groups of spectators with their expensive beers and designer clothes – gay and straight – and broke out into a chant, led in our part by the officials from the National Union of Teachers, of “We’re here, we’re queer, we can’t afford the beer!” which was fun and true but strange.We weren’t allowed to march past Downing Street this year, so the delicate little flowers who ‘work’ for ‘us’ there didn’t have to hear our complaints. We were, however, required to walk past a group of narrow-minded wife-beating kiddy-fiddlers – I think they think they’re Christians – who were shouting for us to be stoned and burned and other words of wise, kind forgiveness that their messiah asked them to say to their neighbours. Usually the marchers at Pride ignore them, or take the opportunity to snog their partners at that point, or to do the Stonewall Riot showgirl kicking thing that would cripple me. Not this time. From the top of Piccadilly Circus we could see the small band of weirdos. Someone asked “who’s that?”. A dull rumble of replies – Christians, evangelicals, extremists – one word cut through. Bigots. My mum was shocked, but not surprised, that anyone could care enough about what strangers did in bed to come out and shout abuse at them. It’d be like her making a special trip to stop people coming out of Homebase and insulting them for buying beige wallpaper. The mood of the crowd changed as each party rounded the corner and saw the bigots. In front of us, they started the brilliantly satirical chant “Recruit! Recruit! One in ten is not enough!”, which didn’t scan but was very fun to shout. The crowd all did something as they drew level with the bigots, but when we did, my mum took things a step further. My mum is brilliant. I love her to bits and you would too. She’s the life and soul of any party, but also a good shoulder to cry on. She’ll make a cup of tea before you realise yourself you want one. She’s undaunted by vomit, which was very useful in my teenage drinking years. And she’s almost always smiling even as life hurls crap at her. With that word picture in mind, let us return to the march.
We drew level with the bigots and the march, as marches randomly do, briefly stopped for reasons we couldn’t see (usually something to do with a float half a mile ahead). The crowd started to boo the bigots. Then my mum raised her hand in the air and, with grace and aplomb, stuck two fingers up at Chief Bigot (possibly Reverend Bigot, his nametag wasn’t visible) and yelled “fuck you!”.There was a moment of silence, then all the boys and girls around us, me included, all raised our hands in the air, started giving them the finger, and all bellowed “fuck you!” at them too. It was like a spontaneous new gay chant for ill-bred homos everywhere. And the true joy was to come: Chief Bigot and his thieving child-murdering environment polluting assistant bigots looked shocked. Yes, shocked. It was the best thing that ever happened ever: my mum incited a crowd to shock a bigot. She should be given an award. Or at least consider sewing it into the pattern of her next piece of embroidery. With that, the march petered out – there’s never a good way to end a march, but the decision to end it 5 minutes walk away from the accompanying festival is quixotic – and we had to decide whether to go to Trafalgar Square with everyone else or walk over the bridge to the South Bank where the Terrace Bar sold Pimm’s in pitchers. Over our glass of Pimm’s – well, what would you do? – we talked about how much fun we’d had and our plans for a theatre trip that night. We were exhausted but very happy and, yes, proud.