I’ve been thinking: “what does the word pride actually mean?” Am I proud to be Welsh, for example? Yes. Am I proud to be gay? Yes. But why? Because I’m not ashamed of being a minority? There was a time when I definitely was ashamed, or at least secretive, about my sexuality. However, if i’d known how positive the response would be from people around me when I finally came out, I would have probably done it sooner. Hindsight, eh?
Back in 1988, I even fronted the Clause 28 march in Manchester, and spoke in front of 18,000 people and the world’s press, before actually coming out myself!
I was kidding myself that I was representing all other gay men as an actor who just happened to be playing a gay character in Brookside. Yeah, right! But it was that major confirmation of such a positive response of all those peaceful protestors around me that day, that made me think: “now is the time, you can do this, it’s okay to be gay.” I only wish it was okay for so many others who still hide in fear, who can’t live their authentic lives.
I’ve been asked many times: “what was it like to actually ‘come out’?” and I’ve never been able to find a comparison to help explain- until recently. For me, coming out felt a little like emerging from the pandemic lockdown. Like a weight had been lifted, like a restraint was gone, and I felt free. Lockdown and the pandemic have had a lot to answer for, but I feel it’s made some of us more grateful and focused. I feel it’s given us time to reflect and look at ourselves. I feel I have come our of it a different and better person, with a greater understanding of myself. So, I’ve come out twice. Typical!
Have you come our of lockdown a different person? A better person? If so, you should be proud.
Us LGBTQ+ lot seem to have highjacked the work Pride, haven’t we? Every time I hear the word, in whatever context, I always see it in my mind’s eye in block capital letters, in all the colours of the rainbow. And there’s something else we’ve snatched too- the rainbow and all its colours.
June each year is also Pride month, to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969 in New York. It is a month of celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in various ways, from large fundraisers to small personal efforts with rainbows everywhere. For myself, I even received a beautiful Pride rainbow candle, created especially for the occasion, from Apothecary64 in Penarth, with all the profits going back to Pride. Not only a great idea and a good cause, but it smelt amazing too!
Every August at Pride Cymru, in Cardiff, there is a parade through the city, and in the past, I have been honoured to carry the P at the beginning of the word Pride, right at the front of the march. This was a very proud moment! I remember the last parade before Covid, whilst balancing a very heavy capital letter P. Although it was made of balloons, it was incredibly weighty, and I had the most beautiful experience that I’ll cherish forever. Whilst we slowly walked through the streets of the capital city, all I saw was a sea of supportive city-goers, shoppers and shopkeepers smiling, applauding and dancing along with us.
It filled my heart. It seemed we’d unlocked a community joy and were spreading it throughout the city. It made me recognise, for sure, that there are so many good and open-hearted people around. These allies definitely outweigh any negative opinions, who still shout abuse, physically abuse, and even murder someone for being their authentic self.
There was one rather ironic drawback from carrying a very large P that day for hours on end. As a man of a certain age, it wasn’t long before I needed the bathroom, and found myself holding a rather large P in more ways than one.
Whoever you are, whatever you are, I do hope you are proud too! Proud of anything. Getting this far, even. If you’re not, now is the time to do something about it, and remember what Heather Small once asked- “What have you done today to make you feel proud?”