I’m an introvert and suffer from social anxiety. I don’t generally go out of my way to attend events where there are lots of people, especially when I don’t know them.
But one of the things I will always do when I can is attending Pride.
This year was my second at Sunshine Coast Pride Festival’s Fair Day as an author, and although it was exhausting, it was also inspiring, humbling and amazing in equal measure.
Now that I’ve recovered from the inevitable introvert hangover that follows from attending an event like this, I wanted to share some thoughts on why Pride events are still important, even though we’re evolving into a (mostly) more open, tolerant and accepting society.
It’s always someone’s first time
I’ve been to a number of Pride events now, and sometimes I forget that for some people, it’s their first time. The sense of wonder and love and joy I saw on the faces of people who told me it was their first ever Pride event was fantastic to see.
I love that I could be some small part of that, chatting to people and encouraging them to go to more, to seek out their ‘tribe’, and to enjoy the feeling of being with people who ‘got’ them.
I think the quote of the day went to a young teen who I overheard talking to her friend about Pride. She said ‘How cool is it to be somewhere and just be, you know, out? It’s amazing!’
Community is important for those who are otherwise isolated
I’ve been ‘out’ now for close to two decades. I’m still working hard to be comfortable in my own skin but for the most part, I’m pretty proud of who I am, and thanks to a supportive and loving family and friends group, I don’t have too many experiences of homophobia in my life anymore.
But talking to people at Pride on the weekend made me realise that there are lots of people for whom being out in their everyday lives poses problems for them.
There are still people who have to hide who they are and not be able to live authentic, healthy, happy, proud lives.
That makes me extremely sad, but for those people, attending Pride events lets them know that they’re not alone. That they have a whole community who accepts them and loves them, just the way they are.
The people you meet are inspiring
Over the course of the day, I met:
A group of superheroes, wearing their chosen Pride flags as capes, (which I was buzzed about being asked to sign), whose enthusiasm rubbed off on me.
It blew my mind when they discovered they’d read my first book, Crush, on Wattpad. They think they fangirled over me – well, it was very much the other way around!
I met a trans woman in her 70s who was attending her first Pride, the joy she felt at finding a loving and accepting community written all over her face. Her eyes lit up as we spoke about what it meant for her to be there, to see a loud, raucous, joyful celebration of diversity that she was now a part of.
Then there was the young trans man who was attending for the first time with his amazing mum, who was so obviously supportive that it made my heart sing.
I was humbled to be able to personalise one of my books for him, the first time he’d had his new name used in that way.
I was encouraged to book a booth at Supanova (where, apparently, it is ‘full of queer kids’), and was offered advice on getting my books into libraries. I met a teacher who asked about working out a way to increase the diversity in her school’s library and classrooms.
And finally, the sheer number of people who stopped by to tell me how wonderful it is that I write the books I do, even though they weren’t my target market, and chatted about life in general, made my day.
And amongst all of that, I managed quick catch-ups with friends I’d met from previous Pride events, which is always a highlight.
Like I said earlier, although events like these are exhausting, once the dust settles and I get to think about it, the joy, the inspiration, the energy of the people I got to meet, it will all stay with me for a long time.
I can’t wait for the next one.
I guess I’m going to have to get out more.