The cheers were deafening.
Cheering, whistling, singing.
The whole street was alive with colour and smiles.
We could barely hear the parade commander’s orders.
Just follow the person in front and smile!
It wasn’t hard, I couldn’t stop smiling.
Smiling, and laughing, and waving.
The response from the people of London lining the route of this year’s PRIDE march was incredible.
The overwhelming feeling in the air was love and happiness. A day of celebration with every person there proud of who they were and who they chose to love.
I marched with the Royal Air Force LGBT+ Freedom network alongside colleagues in the Marines. the Navy, the Army, and the Civil Service.
It was my last day in uniform after 13 years of service and it was fabulous!
Royal Air Force
Only a Generation
At dinner I met a really interesting middle aged lesbian couple who had served in the military when it was illegal to both be gay and defend your country.
They told stories of running out the back door of bars to escape Special Investigations Branch or sneaking into camp in the boot of their girlfriend’s car so they weren’t seen together.
Nostalgically they recalled the element of dangerous thrill that infused their relationships then. It was like listening to someone recall life as a spy in East Berlin. It was fascinating to realise, it was the 90s!
Conversely I also met a bubbly young woman who had been out and gay since she started thinking about sexual attraction. She had come out to an extremely supportive family and friendship group. She spoke openly about the couple of girls she had dated as if it was no big deal. It wasn’t.
Only a generation separated these women.
One was being born in the same year that the other was in the boot of her girlfriend’s car fearing imprisonment should she be caught.
Today both were skipping through London with Rainbow Camouflage Paint on their faces.
Two generations, two vastly different experiences, two people today as proud and comfortable as the other to be who they truly are.
One of our parade members, while being egged on by the crowd during a water break, busted out The Floss dance craze.
(#FlosswithPride is a campaign by Diversity Role Models, a charity tackling homophobic bulling in schools)
Hot looking Asian guy in uniform doing a flawless Floss? Of course the video has gone viral!
It’s been picked up by media outlets in the U.K., USA, Japan, and randomly in Nigeria!
This all seems like a bit of fun engagement with the public, bit of good PR for the Royal Air Force, until you take a second to dig a little deeper. This guy is now being recognised in the street by people and asked to take selfies with them. He has suddenly found himself to be the face of the RAF’s Pride representation.
This is an exert from a message he wrote on our LGBT+ Freedom Network Facebook page:
“I’m humbled by the whole experience having met so many wonderful people! Got a bit emotional meeting the Air Cadets on Horse Guards today with them telling me they’ve been inspired by the video to be proud of who they are, think they’re all very very keen to march in Pride now.
Thanks to the Freedom Network for all your hard work in allowing me to be involved in something that would earn me 20 years behind bars back home in Malaysia. It means a lot! 🌈”
Today, in 2018, if this guy went home, he’d be locked up.
Also today, in 2018, he marched proudly, both as an RAF Officer commissioned by Her Majesty The Queen and as a gay man, through the centre of London with one million attendees screaming their support for him.
And still people ask me:
Why does the LGBT+ community need a parade?!
That is why.
Because we are doing well but we aren’t there yet.
So what will London Pride look like in 2039 when my daughter is the same age as the young woman I met?
What about London Pride 2048 when my son is my age? (And I’m 64! 😬)
If LGBT+ have come this far in a generation how much further will the community be by then?
Will there still be a need for a PRIDE parade in 2048?
There will always be a reason to celebrate love and so, for me, Pride will always live on.
If one million cheering, whistling, screaming spectators in 2018 is anything to go by then Pride 2048 is going to be one hell of a party!
It has got to be the most stomach churning feeling, regret.
That sensation when you knew how you wanted to act but you acted differently because, ”what will people say”, because you thought it was how you were “supposed to act”.
Today I saw a million people who had liberated themselves from fear, shame and regret and from the pressure to act a certain way and to live a certain way.
I saw a million people free from the burden of keeping up appearances and extremely happy as a result.
Kids, I hope you learn this lesson early, as I did.
No one can tell you how you feel inside.
No one can tell you there is a right or wrong person to love.
Only you can know what feels right and who makes your heart dance in that special way.
Kids, I want you to do two things for your old man:
If you believe in a cause, get off your sofa and march for it.
Live your lives free from regret and full of love.
Do both those things and your Dad will be forever proud of you.