I’ve been accosted by two giant chipmunks. I’m four. No one’s told me what mugging is yet, but – still – I have a feeling I’m about to be mugged. At Disneyland. While my dad takes pictures.
The shifty chipmunks in question are Chip ‘n’ Dale. They’re about fifty feet tall, or so they seem to my minuscule self. I feel a phobia coming on. I freeze while they put on a show of sorts. One that involves the kind of non-consensual touching I won’t experience again for at least another twelve years, when I start going to bars. I wonder if this is supposed to be fun. Whatever “fun” is, I realise I’m not having it, and I begin to panic. Chip (or Dale, I’ll never know for sure…) picks a red flower from a nearby bush and presents it to me. I feel like I don’t deserve it. Later, I cry on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
Even later (22 years so, to be precise) replace Chip ‘n’ Dale with Chippendales, and you have me at London Pride last year. I have no idea what Pride was like before the days of corporate sponsorship and the general vastness of Christmas. I’ve been going for ten years now, every single one of which has been spent battling the same nausea-inducing aversion to fun that was activated in me as a child by two grown humans in chipmunk suits. Pride, in fact, is a queer Disneyland with which I have a complicated relationship. It’s a Krakatoa eruption of bad music and free sachets of lube that wants, more than anything, to be loved. And I want to love it.
Pride – for someone who doesn’t find fun things fun – isn’t so much something you go to as something you do. You turn up, you stand amongst may thousands of what the papers always call “revellers” who are barging you in 17 directions at once, and you pay your respects to those who fought and those who continue to fight for LGBT equality. All the while, you day drink from a can of increasingly tepid Red Stripe and nod gravely at those you have dated. All of whom are crowded into Soho like very depressing cattle you had sex with.
The anxiety induced by the pressure to have fun – under, let’s face it, quite Boschian circumstances – is like no other. And let’s say you do start having fun; the moment you realise you’re having fun, the entire experience – halted by self-awareness – turns into nothing but an embryonic memory. I think what I’m trying to say is, I just find Pride a real chore. But I hate to be so down on it. Barclays-sponsored parade floats or not, Pride is still important. After the horror of Orlando this year, even more so. I could let rip with buzzwords like “solidarity” and “community”, but I’m not sure I want to anymore. For me – fun or not – this year’s Pride is about something deeper; a sweet spot between gratitude and anger. Gratitude, I suppose, for all the love out there. Which sounds corny and perhaps just as buzzword-y as “solidarity”. But, within a marginalised “community” (sorry) love is actually this quite tangible thing. And something – like Pride in general – we need to do.
As is anger. Pride has never felt angry to me – it’s felt… drunk, tired and rained-on. But to quote – of all people – John Lydon, “anger is an energy”. It’s emotional Red Bull, which I’m going to need, because anxiety makes me very, very drowsy.
My instructions for those who, like me, don’t enjoy Pride but feel obligated to go may seem convoluted and vague: channel your various conflicting emotions into a sort of life force that will both energise you and turn getting hit in the face by an errant lube sachet into a beautiful experience. Maybe I haven’t quite figured out how to make the day less of a chore. Valium, maybe? Or would that dilute my Pride?