Story By Andres Garzon
Photography By Brook Lovie
There’s nothing quite like it.
It’s July 28th, I’m sitting on the curb along Queen, sun high in the sky on a hot summer weekend, and I see it slowly approaching. At first, it’s this enormous mass of moving color and sound, inching closer with each anticipated minute. The people next to me begin to stand. Children peek around adult legs, stretching away from their parent’s grasp, running into the street in wonder. It gets closer and I start to make out shapes: a banner, words in big gestural letters, faces adorned with the colors of a rainbow. As it goes by, I see a friend, a mother, someone I went to highschool with. I see a community leader. I see a man in a dress. “FREE MOM HUGS” in big bold writing on the shirt of strangers in the middle of an embrace. “WE WILL BE YOUR FAMILY,” a sign in the hands of people I don’t know, but who already seem familiar.
‘‘In the middle of these delicate, tumultuous times, London Pride is a reminder of the passionate and magical beginnings of the gay rights movement.’’
This scene looks vastly different than it would have 50 years ago at Stonewall, or, for London, even 25 years ago. This year’s Pride London Festival (its 25th anniversary) spanned 11 days, held 40+ events and garnered the support of nearly 50 sponsors. It culminated with its largest celebration: a 2-hour-long pride parade featuring over 120 floats and drawing crowds of 25,000 or more. Finally, to add to its long list of milestones: in 2019, not a single protester.
So, what does it all do for our community? London’s population has skyrocketed in the past 10 years. As its artistic and cultural hubs, safe spaces, and inclusive resources have expanded, so has its population of queer, LGBT2S, non-binary and trans folk. All around the world you see the same patterns. For London, that means more wins for organizations and spaces catering to the queer community. It means a commitment on London’s part to celebrate the community that has contributed to so much of its success. Most importantly, for young and new queer Londoners, it means access to resources, clubs, and support that is still missing in many cities around the world.
Knowledge of the gender spectrum, sexuality, and personal identity has permeated both queer and straight communities all over the world. In places like Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco, and New York, you see the fervent growth of queer communities and their respective Prides—some involving parades almost 12 hours long.
The Pride London Festival is no less extraordinary. As a young gay man figuring out where I fit in an ever growing group of fabulous, uplifting, and spirited LGBT2S people, Pride London has been at the heart of my self expression, confidence, and feelings of security. I can attest to my years of experiences being out and proud in a city of people that elevate small grassroots organizations all over. In an era where Pride has become more commercialized than ever before, moments such as the ones I experienced on July 28th are easily drowned out in the mayhem of barricaded parades, floats that span 3 street lanes, or crowds in the thousands. High-budget Prides have become celebrations for the elite and well-off, and have become inaccessible to the deeply marginalized—to those who, frankly, need it most.
Not in London. In the middle of these delicate, tumultuous times, London Pride is a reminder of the passionate and magical beginnings of the gay rights movement. Year after year, London’s educational, non-profit, and volunteer run festival creates the space for straight folk to learn and for queer folk to teach, celebrate, and bask in the advances made in our home city since its first Pride in 1994. I hope that never changes. Here’s to another 25 years.
Click on the images below to explore Pride 2019