The UK's first official Gay Pride Rally took place in July 1972, when around 1,000 people marched from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park. Through the '80s and '90s, Pride events sprung up all over the country as LGBT people campaigned for the repeal of Section 28, demonstrated solidarity in the face of the AIDS crisis, and spearheaded the push for equal marriage. In recent years, some Pride events have been criticised for becoming too corporate, too frothy, and even too heteronormative. These days, Tesco sends a float to the Pride in London parade.
But this doesn't mean we should write off our local Pride events as pointless. The LGBT rights movement has benefited white, able-bodied, cisgender males far more than anyone else – and the community is looking pretty disparate. Pride may be the one day of the year where LGBT people of any age, gender, colour, body type, class and political outlook actually come together. It's a reminder of how far we've come, but also of how much work we still need to do for less privileged members of the community. With this in mind, here's a guide to making the most of whichever Pride event(s) you attend in 2017.
Pick a Pride that's properly inclusive.
UK Black Pride and Trans Pride Brighton are among the fantastic annual events that give visibility to underrepresented sections of the LGBT community. But other, less targeted Pride parties have a responsibility to create a space that's safe for absolutely everyone. "Pride events should welcome, embrace and celebrate all LGBT folk, not just some," Stonewall's Matt Horwood tells us. "Make sure your local Pride has all LGBT people in mind when planning its event. What’s accessibility like? Does it include LGBT PoC? Is there a space for those who don’t drink? And are the L, B and T communities represented?" Put simply: pick a Pride where it looks as though everyone will be able to enjoy themselves equally.
Remember that LGBT allies are just as welcome.
Loads of people go to Pride to support friends, family members and work colleagues; no one's going to ask you to present some kind of 'Honorary Gay' card when you arrive. Alice Beverton-Palmer, an ally who DJs at cult LGBT night Push the Button, has the following advice for fellow allies attending Pride: "You're a guest at someone else's – fabulous – party so behave as such. Clap, cheer, chat to people – the atmosphere is incredible. Soak it up and be wowed by the variety of floats – and the amazing pop acts who'll be performing. Whether it's nostalgic throwbacks the gays never deserted, or up-and-coming artists, the music is guaranteed to be on point. Oh, and if you do get to that point where you've had a few drinks, ladies... there will be tons of gorgeous men, but do not tell any of them it's 'a waste' that they're gay."
Think about the practicalities.
Yes, Pride is a party, but it's a party that's taking place outside in the middle of the notoriously fickle British summer. So bring layers: there's no point planning a flawless outfit if it's going to get ruined by rain, or you're too busy shivering to flaunt it. "Always have water with you – and a brolly is absolutely essential," says one of the UK's leading drag kings, Adam All. "And if you're going to a large Pride event, don't move too often between stages because they're further apart than you think and you'll likely just miss things. So make a plan according to what's on with plenty of wiggle room, and stick to it. Pace yourself because it's a long old day, and always have an eye on the nearest loo."
Shades are also a Pride essential – not just to protect your eyes from the sun, but also to hide behind when you spot an ex you'd rather not reconnect with. On a related note, author and LGBT activist Juno Dawson points out that angel wings, a Pride outfit staple, are actually a great place to stash an emergency condom or dental dam.
Have fun, but remember why you’re there.
Obviously going to Pride should be a laugh. You might drink too much, overdo the body glitter, and end up taking a messy selfie with Sinitta after she's finished performing "So Macho" in a bikini on the main stage. (OK, maybe that last one's just me.) But anyway, there is always a political purpose to Pride and it's always worth keeping this in mind. "Pride is a celebration of equality," says model and DJ Munroe Bergdorf. "For example, this year's theme for Pride in London is 'Love Happens Here...'. So be the change you want to see and treat others as you wish to be treated."
Some Pride events are now ticketed and you'll probably have to register if you want to march, so always check the relevant website in advance. Stonewall has a very decent list of Pride events taking place all over the UK this summer here.