And just like that… we’re in June! Isn’t it strange how time flies? Several of the ‘big’ annual fetish events are now done and dusted, and summer is finally here. With Pride season underway, now is the time to join the parade and celebrate! But wait, what is it exactly we’re supposed to be celebrating again? And if I don’t march at the parade, does that make me a ‘bad’ gay?

It’s tough finding a reason to celebrate these days. Is it the rising cost of living? the conflicts shattering lives across the world? Another election gone to the crazys? or perhaps the growing number of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation? the list goes on. As we look at the state of our world, it seems there’s enough out there to turn joy into despair, and pride into shame.

Some might argue the same for the state of our community: Pride parades that are ‘too’ gay (or too corporate?); too little inclusion (or too much?); too few events to attend (or too many?); events that are too sex-forward (or not sex-forward enough?); events that are too gear-exclusive (or too ‘circuit?). It seems when it comes to matters of a queer nature, everyone’s got an opinion – just read the ‘comments section’.

People sure do like stirring the pot, and in our little pot of fetish soup, people sure seem to take ‘pride’ in simply voicing their opinion, whatever it may be. That’s not Pride, but rather just noise. And noise halts progress, rather than enables it. In a world rife with ‘keyboard warriors’ its all too easy to share a story, make a post or comment on something you see and disagree with. This isn’t activism – it’s inactivism. Complaining about something on social media without an informed opinion or following up with action is no different to sending out ‘thoughts and prayers’.

Our Progress was hard fought, and is too easily unraveled.

There’s no doubt about it, we’ve come a long way since the 1980’s. Many of us are fortunate to live in a time and space where life-saving drugs are available, and have the right to gather, marry and live our lives in a way that feels true to us. However, these privileges we enjoy are not the outcome of ‘thoughts and prayers’, but of decades of action of those matching words with action. It is also still very much a work in progress – it is worth celebrating, but also protecting. You may think you’re safe, but no one in our community is immune from having their dignity eroded or their sense of freedom taken away.

Whether its courtesy of politicians, schoolteachers, or the people we encounter on the street, many of us still receive painful reminders that our progress so far was hard fought, but all to easy to unravel. Be it a hateful piece of legislation or a person who misgenders you, your personal dignity is at stake as is that of our entire community. However, our unraveling also comes from within, with some people in our community taking liberties with words and actions which cause us harm, either as individuals or as a community. Don’t underestimate the damage caused by a single person who shares a negative comment (in person or online), or who excludes others from the community who don’t share their unique view of the world.

We clearly still have a way to go – as a community and as individuals. Pride offers us a way to shine a light on who and where we are, and where we may wish to go next. ‘Pride Month’ is now marked around the world. Who would have thought that possible 20 or 30 years ago? And who would have thought I’d be marching in a parade in leather? I sure didn’t.

Photo by: vansf12

Throw yourself your own parade every time you gear up.

When I first came out, I couldn’t even fathom the idea of marching openly through the streets of Dublin as a gay man as part of a parade. Year by year, I grew, my community grew and my confidence grew. I am no longer that scared guy who was afraid to wave the pride flag. I am now Guy who proudly waves the leather flag and marches in Dublin, in Berlin, and everywhere I go. I’ll march proudly down the street at Folsom Berlin, and through a hotel lobby in Chicago. Because every time I gear up, I acknowledge who I am celebrate it by letting it out.

In doing so, it’s as if I throw myself my own parade, whether at home or out with my friends. Whatever the season and whatever the reason, we don’t need a reason to feel Pride. Every time we come together and be unapologetically ourselves is an opportunity to feel and show our Pride. Like a pride of lions, when we gather we show our strength, and increase our visibility. Be it in a local leather social or an international event, your pride is yours to define, feel and express your own way with whomever you choose.

In a previous column, I spoke of the importance of creating your own definitions for how you see and experience the world. When it comes to Pride, I invite you to do the same: What does ‘Pride’ mean for you? As you reflect back on your journey, what are you most, or quite possibly least proud of? When you look at your unique journey in gear, as a member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, and in this world, what have you achieved or created? Each moment represents an opportunity to recognise and celebrate who you are. Each time you buy yourself a new piece of gear, gear up, or walk proudly down the street you are celebrating and matching in your own pride parade. It doesn’t mean the work is done, but celebrating wins along the way is essential to remind yourself what you are capable of, and fill yourself with gratitude and motivation.

Don’t make noise, make a difference.

Marking Pride month each year represents a form of milestone, for each of us as well as the community as a whole. Much like birthdays, anniversaries or even an annual trip to Folsom, they each represent an opportunity to check in on where we are, where we were, and where we wish to go. As a community, they enable us to look back on events and people which helped shape where we are, take account and celebrate our progress so far and identity areas where more attention needs to be spent. As for each of you, well, that’s up to you.

Whatever your goal in life, and wherever you wish your journey takes you, it’s important you take time to pause, reflect, and see where you are in terms of your own progress. Take the time to learn from the challenges and savour your wins, so you give yourself the fuel you need for the next leg of your journey. It’s not a sprint, or a marathon, or a race to get there. If anything, it’s a parade.

 It’s all to easy to dwell on the negatives. The world around is not only full of problems, but of noise as well. And so, its natural to focus on the problems we face – as a society and as a community. However, it’s important we celebrate what we can, but also do what we can. Don’t make noise, make a difference. And when it comes to our community, there is still work to be done. Give yourself a reason to feel proud, and in doing so, make others proud. While each of us can throw ourselves a parade whenever we choose, being part of a bigger Pride parade means we join others like us, adding strength to our visibility as a community.

Let me ask you this:

  • What does ‘Pride’ mean for you?
  • What are you proud of achieving in your own life?
  • What might you do to feel proud, which contributes to our collective Pride?

Think about it! 😏

Coach Guy