July 28th is going to be a momentous day. It is the day that everyone takes to the streets to celebrate pride.  It will also be my first time being a part of the festivities.

So, I delved into what should I know as a first-timer joining in on the celebrations.

We are blessed to openly celebrate our true selves

The history of pride is not painted in the colours of the rainbow but a crisp crimson. Individuals, braver than I, standing up to their rights to be who they are.

On June 28th, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn stood true to their person and faced down the police that had criminalized them for their expression of self. To look back and hear about the guidelines to be not queer seems ridiculous; females had to wear a minimum of 3 feminine pieces of clothing and men showing affection to others were seen as sodomites ready to be thrown in jail.

On this note, we should realize our blessing a little further. Being from Sri Lanka, a country that can still give you a prison sentence of up to and exceeding 14 years in jail for same-sex affection is bizarre. However, the statistics do not fall short there: 7 countries affiliated with the UN carry a death sentence for homosexuality and 70 countries associated with the UN criminalize queerness.

Just imagine, for being yourself, 36% of UN members will throw you in jail.

Know the flag that you wave

Artist Gilbert Baker created the pride flag in 1978. Knowing the meanings of each colour gives a clear perspective of what it is that we are truly celebrating.

24th Annual London Pride Parade. Three people at the Pride Parade in London, Ontario. One person is waving a rainbow flag. Photo by Emily Stewart.
Waving the rainbow flag. Photo by Emily Stewart.

Red for LIFE
Orange for HEALING
Yellow for SUNLIGHT
Green for NATURE
Blue for PEACE & HARMONY
Violet for SPIRIT

The original 8-colour flag also included hot pink (sexuality) and turquoise (art/magic). You can often see those colours represented in the parades and celebrations.

Editor’s Note: As the pride flag continues to evolve, the More Colour, More Pride campaign added black and brown stripes to the pride flag in 2017 to emphasize intersectionality in the LGBT+ community.

Love everyone

There is no right way to be. This is what I struggled with for years. There is no best practice to approach your sexuality. There is shame and struggle that everyone faces. Your story cannot be replicated. However, the respect that we yearn for can be mirrored and given to others. As a community filled with love and acceptance, the space for marginalizing should be non-existent.

Still Not Erased London - a march in support of trans persons. Photo by Thomas Davies.
Still Not Erased London – a march in support of trans persons. Photo by Thomas Davies.

I have known who I am for a long while, however, I have often felt that I was not the right participant for the celebrations. It has taken me 6 years to work up the courage to put on my colors and be a part of the community.

Everyone’s story is different, their reasons for how they approach their sexuality and identity are their own. I am a believer of “each unto their own” as long as you do not tear down something that is built to celebrate love and pride in ourselves.
For all the information about the fun events happening around London, follow Pride London Festival on Facebook.

Feature photo by Laura Thorne.

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