Robert Hampton

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8th August 2010

Pride and Prejudice, but without the Prejudice. And lots of extra Pride

Photo of Pride banner hanging from St George's HallThe notion of Gay Pride arouses much tedious harrumphing from some sections of the public, usually along the lines of, “if we had a Straight Pride event we’d be arrested for bigotry. It’s PC gone mad. Loony left, asylum seekers, Daily Mail, BBC Have Your Say”

This opinion (it’s an overstatement to call it an “argument”) ignores the fact that Pride is possibly the one day each year that LGBT people can live their lives completely openly without fear of intimidation or violence. One could easily argue that the other 364 days of the year are de facto Straight Pride days.

Such thoughts were in the back of my mind as I travelled into the city centre for the inaugural Liverpool Pride celebrations. Accepting my sexual orientation has been a long and difficult road of turbulent emotions and long phases of denial and self-loathing. Until very recently, I was out to hardly anyone. Truth be told, I felt like a bit of a fraud for even thinking of taking part in a Pride march, because for a very long time, my feelings were of shame, not pride.

Hopping off the 82 bus outside Lewis’s, I soon rendezvoused with Scott and Andrew who, separately or together, have been partners in most of my exploits over the past year or so.

The first sign that something was going on came via Subway and the nearby Masala Wok restaurant in Ranelagh Street, which had both opportunistically jumped on the rainbow bandwagon:

Rainbow flag poster outside Subway, Ranelagh Street, Liverpool Rainbow flag flies from an upstairs window at the Masala Wok restaurant, Liverpool

As we walked the short distance to the starting point for the march at St George’s Plateau, rain began to fall. I was worried, not because rain would dampen people’s spirits, but mainly because I had dumped half a bottle of FCUK gel into my hair and spent a sizeable amount of time wrangling it into shape. Fortunately the shower was light and lasted only a couple of minutes. I prayed for the rest of the day to stay dry.

As we approached the Hall, I saw that the rainbow flag was proudly flying above. This was even better than seeing it outside Masala Wok! I felt a little flutter of excitement and realised this was going to be a special day.

Rainbow flag flying from St George's Hall

The confirmation e-mail from the Pride organisers had asked us to arrive at 11.30am. We arrived bang on time, but it seemed that the rest of the city’s gay community was applying the principle of fashionable lateness to proceedings as the crowds were decidedly thin on the ground at this stage. We sheltered from the rain in the magnificent portico of St George’s Hall while we waited for proceedings to get under way.

We didn’t have to wait long as people started to arrive in droves soon after. Individuals, families with children, groups of friends and representatives of large organisations (including a contingent from LGBTory who drew Scott’s ire) all turned up to take their place.

Photo of the assembling marchers for Pride 2010

The march organisers stood holding signs, showing each group where to stand. I was in a different group to Scott, and Andrew hadn’t registered at all, but we ignored that minor technicality and stood together. We were then joined by Scott’s friend Jamie. The steward assigned to our group didn’t seem too bothered that three out of four of us were in the wrong place, as he ticked us off his list.

We were conveniently stationed just behind the Garlands contingent (shirtless man on stilts, yay!) and ahead of the Citizens Advice Bureau team. There was also a man in rainbow hotpants nearby, who deserves credit for being far braver in his sartorial choices than I would ever be.

Photo of some of the team from Garlands nightclub preparing for the Pride march Photo of the team from the Citizens Advice Bureau preparing for the Pride march A man in rainbow pants prepares to take part in the Pride march

The rain had stopped by now and the clouds parted briefly to allow the sun to shine down on us. An actual rainbow at this point would have been excellent, but sadly this particular cliché was not to be.

The Lord Mayor emerged from inside the hall and made a speech. At least, I think that’s what happened: our assembly point had an obstructed view of the dignitaries and the PA system – if it was working at all – was too weak to carry the voices to us. Anyway, it must have been inspiring because a cheer went up at the end.

And with that, we were off! With drums beating and whistles blowing, we set off down Lime Street, where there were crowds of well-wishers waving and taking pictures. We passed a City Sightseeing bus, loaded with bemused tourists, that had got caught in the traffic and moved on towards Queen Square bus station, where nobody seemed to mind too much that the number 17 to Fazakerley was going to be seriously delayed.

Photo of crowds at St George's Hall watching the Pride march

Just in front of us was a man wearing what appeared to my untrained eye to be an SS uniform complete with gas mask. Lots of people were taking photos of him and his female companion; I suspect I am in the background of most of those photographs.

After Queen Square, the march turned towards Whitechapel and Lord Street in the heart of the city’s shopping district. Staff and customers emerged from inside the shops to take in the spectacle. Most passers-by stopped to let the parade go past; a few of the more impatient ones looked for a gap in proceedings to dash through. A man in a dress broke off from the parade to go into Betfred.

Lord Street during Liverpool Pride March 2010

The one unsavoury note to proceedings came as we passed Derby Square, where a small contingent of anti-gay protesters had set up camp outside the Victoria Monument, with the obligatory quotes from the Book of Leviticus. Nobody ever mentions the bit of the Bible about not eating shrimp. To quote Reverend Lovejoy: “You ever sat down and read this thing? Technically, we’re not allowed to go to the bathroom.”

Anti-gay protesters in Derby Square

Still, it wouldn’t be a proper Pride march without that element, and the marchers were easily able to drown them out (not that anyone was paying attention to them anyway). I think it needs to be pointed out at this point that there are many, many gay Christians who can reconcile their sexuality and their faith.

With that unpleasantness out of the way, we reached journey’s end at Dale Street, where the actual Pride celebrations were set up. As well as three stages and open-air bars, there were a multitude of stalls where everybody from News from Nowhere to Merseytravel had set up shop.

With the initial excitement over, we retired for a drink, eventually ending up in Cumberland Street where the patrons of the Masquerade Bar had spilled out onto the street.

Cumberland Street during Liverpool Pride 2010

Adam Rickitt Of course, that wasn’t quite the end, as the biggest star of the day came out to shine: the one and only ADAM RICKITT, star of Coronation and Shortland Streets. Er, yay?

OK, so maybe some of the entertainment wasn’t top notch, but it is a free event (and hopefully it will stay that way) and it’s the first year. 2,000 people took part in the march and an estimated 21,000 turned out altogether. There was a fantastic and friendly atmosphere in the city this weekend, both on the streets and in all the bars. I hope that in 2011 the Liverpool Pride organisers can build on this year’s success and make next year’s event bigger and better.

It’s immensely frustrating that a city of the size and stature of Liverpool is so late to the Pride party (FFS, even Chelmsford has one now!) but oddly enough the timing has worked out well for me. I have struggled with my sexual orientation for years, but now — finally — I feel accepted and part of a community.

The days of hiding who I am are gone. Here’s to a happy fulfilling future, living life in the open at last, and with a lot more of this sort of thing:

Photo of Robert alongside three models representing Seen magazine at Liverpool Pride 2010

5 Responses
  1. Comment by Andrew
    8th August 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Hey well done on pressing the Publish button! 🙂

  2. Comment by Seb
    9th August 2010 at 12:30 am

    Alright, /gay/.

    More seriously: I’ve never been sure quite how “out”, or otherwise, you’ve been (even though, as a long-time reader of your blog, certain things have been quite obvious for a while!) – but it’s great to see that with this, and your twitter posts on the day itself, you’ve been able to fully and properly express and feel proud of this part of who you are. Hurrah!

    Also, lol @ Adam Rickett.

  3. Comment by Liverpool Solicitors
    9th August 2010 at 4:41 pm

    It was good to see so many people on the streets of Liverpool at the weekend celebrating being attracted to the same sex. It made me wonder about how men and woman locked in relationships cope with the strains of coming out to their partners.

  4. Comment by Chris P
    11th August 2010 at 6:02 pm

    As a gay man myself, I’m afraid to say that I find Pride events rather embarrassing. I don’t feel excluded on the 364 other days of the year. Even if I did feel ‘excluded’, I doubt that a parade of vacuous muscled bimbos with their shirts off and Lily Savage lookalikes would make me feel ‘included’. Patronising pink pound traps, that’s all these events are. Surely the marketing link on comment 3 (above) confirms this.

    Anyway, ‘LGB Tory’? And Adam Rickett (a topless Tory with silly hair)?? Where I come from, coming out as a Tory is a far far more serious matter than confessing that you like doing it with other blokes.

  5. Comment by Scott
    13th August 2010 at 9:33 pm

    I can see what you mean about the Pride events being an embarrassment, but I have to disagree. Part of Pride is showing that you’re proud of who you are and that you’re not afraid. With homophobic attacks on the rise in Liverpool – one dead, one put in hospital – it’s important to show that homosexuals aren’t afraid and aren’t hiding away. The Pride March was the most important part of the day for me, walking through the town saying yep, gay: got a problem? And being cheered and applauded en route. The celebration included gays from all different walks of life, of which, yes, drag queens and shirtless guys were part, but also there were people in t-shirts, fat people, thin, old, young, women with kids – all types of gay. All just being together. That’s something to be proud of, I think.