Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Pride without prejudice


"What is pride? A rocket that emulates the stars."
(William Wordsworth)
The celebration now known as "Brighton Pride" is now in it's 40th year. Incredibly, the first march or parade was a smallish affair organised by the Sussex Gay Liberation Front in 1973; a mere seven years earlier and such a gathering of predominantly openly"out and proud" homosexuality could have culminated in custodial sentences. As in recent years, this Brighton Pride Weekend of 3rd and 4th August saw gay police officers from the city marching at the height of the parade. For the sixth successive year, they were joined by gay officers from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight constabularies, men and women and all proudly in uniform.
The Pride festivities are now organised by a specially created community-interest company, enabling and producing events that celebrate lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gender lives. The weekend now extends beyond the parade and the music festival in Preston Park to include a city-wide arts and film festival. Brighton Pride always aims to raise not only awareness, smiles and spirits but also funds for local community groups and charities. These essentially include HIV and AIDS support groups. As a former voluntary carer and fundraiser for the Terrence Higgins Trust, I'm always heartened to see THT's friendly and inclusive presence at such events. This year, it's estimated that more than £40,000 has been raised for the collective "Rainbow Fund".
In fact, general inclusivity across the parade and celebrations was bright and evident in Brighton this year. I was working over the Pride weekend and didn't really intend to join the parade or activities, but the theatrical enthusiasm was infectious. The theme of the festivities this year was gay icons across the arts and media. I found myself queuing in my local Aldi behind two male Monroes and ahead of a variety of Freddie Mercury and Cher lookalikes. Even iconic-wannabees fancy a bargain. I wandered past what I refer to as my local cheap-frock shop, only to find they were offering multi-coloured tutus as "buy one get one free". The rather skimpily curtained changing cubicles were full of delightful but quite large gentlemen taking advantage of the tutu sale: I had my doubts about their ballet credentials.
My one unwitting concession to the very sunny Pride weekend was to wear a homestead sundress and a straw cowboy hat from the 99p Shop. Along the walk home I was serenaded and yeehaw-ed at by a variety of cowboys, cowgirls and Native American Indians. Clearly, I had forgotten about the impact of the (beautiful) film "Brokeback Mountain"; and the cherished close partnership of The Lone Ranger and Tonto. As I emerged back onto Lewes Road, a Lady GaGa, Bugs Bunny, complete with carrot, and two very male, very bare-chested nuns tickled me as I went past their group. Turns out that Sally Field as The Flying Nun is a definite gay icon - who knew? The tickling incident was a bit of a shock although not unpleasant; I still haven't worked out where dear ol' Bugs Bunny fits into all this.
Attendance estimates for the weekend seem to vary wildly this year too; from the very conservative police figure of 30,000 to the extravagant 150,000 from some of the official sponsors. As with most things in life, the truth rests somewhere in the shade of the two extremes. As George Bernard Shaw suggested, life is not so much about finding yourself as it is about creating yourself. Obviously the good-natured openness and tolerance I witnessed locally extended across the city and over the whole weekend: there were about forty arrests in the city that weekend, probably the same as on any other hot summer weekend at the seaside.
When I first moved to Brighton, I found the tone of Pride quite different. Always promoted as a family celebration, it started to feel a little exclusive to me as a heterosexual female; although I felt saddened rather than threatened. My sexuality and my beliefs, including my Catholicism, sit very comfortably with dear friends made over the years who happen to be gay and the respect and affection I have for the gay community in Brighton. Essentially, I believe Brighton Pride must be inclusive to all ages, genders, sexualities and values to remain valid as well as supported. The point is that every gay man and woman is someone's son, daughter, brother, sister, possibly someone's parent; a police officer, a nurse, your neighbour, a friend.
I have no problem with Brighton Pride being proud, as long as it remains valiant rather than becoming arrogant. I'd actually like to see a celebration of self-worth extend beyond the gay community in Brighton, indeed beyond the city. A few days after Pride 2013, I've had to yet again complain to the city council about the street I live in being used as a little city dump. One person leaves a broken vacuum cleaner in the road, another person leaves a chair, then a large broken mirror appears propped up perilously against the side of a house. The street cleaner still isn't cleaning one side of the road, presumably because of the debris on the pavement.

This area is made up of whole streets of largely rented properties and this is the heart of campus country. After an attempted break-in at my little house the other week, a well-intentioned policeman sympathised that my area is disadvantaged and therefore resentful He noted that if people haven't grown up here or simply feel "dumped" here, the lack of strong roots can destroy the growth of future community. I do feel that when folk have no sense of connection with where they find themselves in life, there's no concept of pride in where they live and sadly, sometimes in how they treat others.
"Pride" is a widely used yet perhaps little understood word. With a negative connotation, often synonymous with "hubris", it refers to an inflated sense of self, often at the expense of all else; in Christianity, one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Yet the word itself originates from the Latin "prodis" - "to be of use or service". Through time, this evolved into the Old French and English words for valiant and noble.
With a positive connotation, pride can refer to a sense of attachment towards one's own choices, beliefs or actions, and towards others. It can be the worthy product of self-reflection, a sense of appreciation, a feeling of fulfilment or belonging. There's a sense of exaltation in the mindset behind Brighton Pride which I feel St Augustine himself would have appreciated. His take on pride without prejudice was that we should have a sense of our own "excellence", to the glory of God who created us; including that bouncy young man so wonderfully dressed as Bugs Bunny. And my fabulous bargain Stetson.
"Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us."
(Jane Austen)
The Rainbow Fund
Sussex Community Foundation
Falcon Wharf
Railway Lane
"Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real."
(Thomas Merton)

"Pride perceiving humility honourable, often borrows her cloak."
(Thomas Fuller)
"Pride does not wish to owe and vanity does not wish to pay."
(Francois de la Rochefoucauld)

 (Photo: Gigi, album)
Yeehaw x

"Wake Me Up When It's All Over" Avicii


  1. I wish I'd been there Gisele, it sounds like it was loads of fun!!!

    You are looking good my lovely xxx

    1. It's always loads of fun in Brighton Aldi; them Waitrose folk don't know what they're missing! As for the pic; you know that scene in the Bridget Jones film where she puts her make-up on in the back of a darkened cab?? That's what my dear friend Lin said my sun-kissed rosiness looked like! Hope to see you soon hon xxx

  2. Brilliantly penned , as ever , Madam. I so wish I could come back to Brighton for a while and view it through different eyes than those I had on in 1995.I only went there for a day, mainly to view The Pavillion ,as a total tourist.I never suspected there was another side to the seaside city other than a summer playground for Queens and foppish Kings.I only recently watched a doco about the glittery, artsy, alternative wonder which it now is.You are very fortunate to have your home there Miss G , as well as blessed to be the wonderous You who can partake in it all with open mind, open heart, sense of fun, enquiring mind and the chutzpa to love it all.You lucky lucky bugger !
    Wish I were there

    1. Rosemary! So good to see you on here! I wish you were here too; thank you for your lovely comment: I don't see why you can't be a single female who's not 23, works hard, goes to church, eats lentils, whinges a bit and still have a sense of fun. I foresee you coming back to Brighton my dear; I can feel it in my cranberry juice X