World Pride in London in July 2012. Photo: Getty
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How to enjoy Gay Pride (if you’re straight)

Do drink slightly warm cider, dance in public and raise your voice in support of LGBT rights. Don’t dare each other to “go up to” drag queens.

Glitter supplies are running low, corporations have gone rainbow to hide their bastardism, religious nuts are upset: yay for Gay Pride season. In case you don’t know any LGBT people who have been in the throes of the annual “Do We Still Need Pride?” debate for the past fortnight, the London one is happening this weekend. Famously, any friends of The Gays are welcome. Now, straight people, I love you, but some of you need a bit of handholding when it comes to doing Pride. Here’s my guide to not ruining it for everyone:

Remember: you’re not on safari

Breeders, I hate to break this to you – Pride may well be this wacky, thongy hootenanny, but it doesn’t happen for your entertainment. Stop taking pictures of absolutely everything, like you’re some kind of cultural Kaspar Hauser who’s never seen a balloon. It isn’t, “ZOMFG random o’clock”, it’s probably just a body builder in a pineapple bra. Chill.

And stop daring each other to “go up to” drag queens.

Watch your fucking language

No, those aren’t “trannies”.

“But they’re blokes in resplendent evening gowns,” you protest, “They look like my auntie Brenda on her wedding day, if she’d been 6’5” and had hands like Le Creusets.”

Yes, and you look like Norman Tebbit’s podiatrist, but duller. I’m not going to make a thing of it though.

Remember folks, just because you once gave a lesbian directions to the nearest Boots, and were “totally cool” about it, you can’t use the word “dyke”. Even on special occasions.

Enjoy yourself

Aside from the inevitable rain, nothing puts a dampener on Pride quite like a group of straight people looking like George Galloway in a synagogue. Whatever’s happening, just go with it. How many times a year do you get to grind to Beyoncé with an oiled Adonis in a Miley Cyrus mask, in broad daylight?

Oh, and I’m allowed to look like I’m chewing a turd: I’m a lesbian.

Be supportive

Even LGBT people often forget that Pride is, at its root, political. Sure, it’s about drinking enough slightly warm cider to dance in public. But it also serves to remind people like you that the queer community has a voice, and that, in the words of Conchita Wurst, “We are unstoppable”. So please don’t be afraid to shout as loud as us, or louder even.

Don’t buy a penis balloon

Every year, vendors turn up to Pride with heaving fistfuls of dicks. I’m not sure who these people are, or why they think Pride is some kind of pagan fertility rite. Last year I saw one of them being arrested, so I’m guessing they’re not supposed to be there. But anyway, Pride isn’t your own, personal Saturnalia (well, maybe it is a little bit…) so please don’t meander though Soho, wielding a phallus on a stick like a disturbing lost child. If you absolutely have to wield something, just opt for a rainbow flag like everybody else.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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I am special and I am worthless: inside the mind of a narcissist

There's been a lot of discussion about narcissists this week. But what does the term actually mean?

Since the rise of Donald Trump, the term “narcissistic” has been cropping up with great regularity in certain sections of the media, including the pages of this journal. I wouldn’t want to comment about an individual I’ve never met, but I thought it would be interesting to look at the troubling psychological health problem of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

People with NPD (which is estimated to affect about 1 per cent of the population) have a characteristic set of personality traits. First, they have a deeply held sense of specialness and entitlement. Male NPD sufferers frequently present as highly egotistical, with an unshakeable sense of their superiority and importance; female sufferers commonly present as eternal victims on whom the world repeatedly inflicts terrible injustices. In both cases, the affected person believes he or she is deserving of privileged treatment, and expects it as a right from those around them.

Second, NPD sufferers have little or no capacity for empathy, and usually relate to other people as objects (as opposed to thinking, feeling beings) whose sole function is to meet the narcissist’s need for special treatment and admiration – known as “supply”. In order to recruit supply, NPD sufferers become highly skilled at manipulating people’s perceptions of them, acting out what is called a “false self” – the glittering high achiever, the indefatigable do-gooder, the pitiable victim.

The third characteristic is termed “splitting”, where the world is experienced in terms of two rigid categories – either Good or Bad – with no areas of grey. As long as others are meeting the narcissist’s need for supply, they are Good, and they find themselves idealised and showered with reciprocal positive affirmation – a process called “love-bombing”. However, if someone criticises or questions the narcissist’s false self, that person becomes Bad, and is subjected to implacable hostility.

It is not known for certain what triggers the disorder. There is likely to be a genetic component, but in many cases early life experiences are the primary cause. Narcissism is a natural phase of child development (as the parents of many teenagers will testify) and its persistence as adult NPD frequently reflects chronic trauma during childhood. Paradoxically for a condition that often manifests as apparent egotism, all NPD sufferers have virtually non-existent self-esteem. This may arise from ongoing emotional neglect on the part of parents or caregivers, or from sustained psychological or sexual abuse.

The common factor is a failure in the development of a healthy sense of self-worth. It is likely that narcissism becomes entrenched as a defence against the deep-seated shame associated with these experiences of being unworthy and valueless.

When surrounded by supply, the NPD sufferer can anaesthetise this horrible sense of shame with the waves of positive regard washing over them. Equally, when another person destabilises that supply (by criticising or questioning the narcissist’s false self) this is highly threatening, and the NPD sufferer will go to practically any lengths to prevent a destabiliser adversely influencing other people’s perceptions of the narcissist.

One of the many tragic aspects of NPD is the invariable lack of insight. A narcissist’s experience of the world is essentially: “I am special; some people love me for this, and are Good; some people hate me for it, and are Bad.” If people with NPD do present to health services, it is usually because of the negative impacts Bad people are having on their life, rather than because they are able to recognise that they have a psychological health problem.

Far more commonly, health professionals end up helping those who have had the misfortune to enter into a supply relationship with an NPD sufferer. Narcissism is one of the most frequent factors in intimate partner and child abuse, as well as workplace bullying. The narcissist depends on the positive affirmation of others to neutralise their own sense of unworthiness. They use others to shore themselves up, and lash out at those who threaten this precarious balance. And they leave a trail of damaged people in their wake. 

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times