Growing up in Scotland in the 70s and 80s, Pride wasn’t a thing. I mean there was literally no pride allowed. Pride was a thing that ‘came before a fall’ and was frowned upon in a culture which celebrated humility, very much disapproved of loud or proud and all but denied LGBT identities existed.
It wasn’t just that Pride wasn’t a thing. It didn’t occur to most of us that there was anything to be proud of. There were almost no LGBT role models, and no way to easily find other young people who might be the same as you, and even if you dared to ever feel comfortable or proud, it was largely unsafe and illegal to share that fleeting thought. It was honestly easier to imagine we’d all live on Mars or even have telephones that weren’t connected to a wall, than that we would ever gather and celebrate proudly as part of a global community.
So it feels like a cause for real celebration that half a century on, Scotland is overflowing with Pride this summer. 28 years after Scotland’s first major Pride event, and 53 years after the start of the Global Pride movement (as a response to the Stonewall riots) there are countless Pride festivals around Scotland between June and September. Each of these events has their own identity and each tells their own story. It is as important that people can join local Pride events from Arran all the way up to Shetland, as it is that they can be part of the fabulously large-scale Mardi Gla in Glasgow. Different scale, same sense of pride.
I hear a lot of criticism of the commercial adoption of pride – sometimes called rainbow washing – with products temporarily wrapped in the rainbow colours of the Pride flag and companies, shops and restaurants waving those flags just once a year. I understand the criticism but, as I reflect on how far we’ve come, I respectfully disagree. I am proud they want to be part of our journey.
Within each of those places there are members of our community – employees and customers – who need to see and feel that visible support for themselves and for the people they love. And for the rest of us travelling on rainbow-covered public transport or eating in a bunting-clad restaurant, it feels good that people want to join us and change things for the better; Allies – the majority supporting the minority
Some of us old softies might even feel our eyes get a little damp as we think about what a difference those Allies would have made to our younger selves and how important it feels that young people today grow up surrounded by those public displays of inclusion.
As I sit in the present and reflect on the past, it feels more important than ever to give young people a sense of hope and pride. Take it from someone who couldn’t believe the phone would ever be mobile – things change for the better! Hang in there and be proud of who you are – we are all proud of you too!