The Big Weekend: Manchester Pride / by Aaron Levi Simic

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Even as I write this, I wish I was still sat along the canal drinking a chilled glass of prosecco and getting ready for a night in the gay village. No where hasn’t really captured my heart as much as Manchester since I first visited Florence – a sentence I would never imagine making! Maybe it is because the sun was out or because it was my first official weekend away with Ben but Manchester is a beautiful city. The best way to see a city is through the character of its people and its architecture.

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When Ben suggested Manchester Pride, I joked about mixing with swaths of skinny queens in clouds of fake tan, muscled Marys and the odd unwashed, toothless Jeremy Kyle extra. I know, I can read a bitch to filth – thank you RuPaul! Which is ironic given that this post is about acceptance but I think there will always be a tongue-in-cheek divide between the north and south. Southerners will joke that northerners speak a separate language to us and question their taste based on their tacky fashion trends and strange food combinations. Northerners will say southerners are stuck up, boring toffs attempting to live like the royal family. 

As much as I love London pride, I think Manchester pride works slightly better simply because it's on a smaller scale. Our celebrations weren't diluted or lost in a huge city. Yes, Soho is rammed in the aftermath of Pride but if you venture across to Covent Garden, you'd be forgiven for not realising Pride had even place. Pride was everywhere in Manchester: in shop windows, in restaurants, along the canal. Flashes of rainbow flags and clothing lit up Manchester, giving couples, groups of friends and families a backdrop for our celebrations. There was a freedom I felt in Manchester that I haven't felt anywhere else. 

If you read about the history of Canal street, including the police treatment of gay people in the 1980s and the Constable of Manchester police accusing gays of "swirling in a cesspit of their own making", the LGBT community have fought hard to secure it is a safe place. It wasn't until the year I was born - 1990 - that the gay village started to become an official gay area with the opening of a gay club Manto. No longer was the canal a secret cruising ground used by gay men and the police that hunted them.   

I understand that some people may argue that by containing Pride celebrations to the Gay Village - which is only accessible with a wristband - isolates us and hides our message of being ‘out and proud’. 

Containing the main celebrations to the village doesn’t dilute our voice but rather gives us an amazing space that strengthens our community. Everybody partying in the village has different coming out experiences but one common thread unites us: being gay is still problematic throughout the world. Whether it was other children calling you a ‘fag’, your parents not accepting your sexuality or not feeling comfortable to hold your partner’s hand in fear of repercussions – we have all be subjected to some kind of persecution in our lives for our sexuality. We are lucky that we live, for the most part, in a county that allows us to be free to be who we want to be. All over the world, people are still denied the rights to marriage, to love their partner openly and even denied the breath in their lungs at the hands of ignorance. 

The parade is our statement to the society to show that we love, we breathe and we bleed the same as our heterosexual brothers and sisters. I cried several times during Manchester Pride because I saw families with their children celebrating the parade and hopefully they will grow without witnessing homophobia.

I think have People can trivialise it is as a big piss up or trying to get laid but it’s more than that. It is a time to raise our glass and celebrate what joins us together. I am so proud to be a gay guy; I love with a fierce loyalty and an open heart and I believe everyone should have the right to do the same.

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