By Ashley Lister
This year I joined our local gay pride march. It was my first time at the event. I went as part of our poetry group (The Dead Good Poets). The poetry group is wholly inclusive and I thought it was important to foreground that inclusivity by joining in with the local community activity of the gay pride march. Also, there were free lollipops and I’m a sucker for free lollipops.
Participating in a gay event meant I had to do a couple of things I don’t usually do. Most worrying of all was the fear I would have to ride on a bus. I don’t want to sound like I’m a hater, but I don’t ride on buses. It’s not that I’ve got anything against buses, or people who ride on buses. It’s just not something I choose to do myself.
Fortunately the parade was a slow-moving event and I was able to walk alongside the bus. I was lucky in that regard because I’m not sure I could have lived with myself after doing something that goes so strongly against my character. I firmly believe, if God had intended me to ride a bus, he wouldn’t have given me a car.
The second thing that worried me was the blowing I was expected to do. I was asked to blow up some balloons to decorate the bus. Anyone who has ever known me knows that balloon-blowing interrupts valuable smoking time. I’ve been smoking so long that my lungs have shrivelled to the size of a midget’s spent condom. Consequently, the idea of me producing enough air to fill a balloon was a genuine cause for concern.
Nevertheless, I braced myself for the task and got on with blowing.
Blackpool is, generally, a gay friendly town. The parade was populated with brightly-coloured trailers and included some spectacular floats. Because someone had noticed I was having difficulty blowing up balloons, I was entrusted with a camera and told to go and take nice pictures. This was more in line with my abilities. I was expected to look through a viewfinder and press a button. I eagerly rushed out to take as many photos as possible.
The team from the S&M bar were cheerful and happy to pose for snapshots. A pair of drag queens from the local TV bar had me laughing so hard I couldn’t hold my camera steady. And then I got to chatting with Dorothy on the Wizard of Oz float about the detail on his costume. Dorothy and I were chatting for so long that it wasn’t until one of the munchkins came and told us that the parade was starting that we had to say a swift goodbye and go our separate ways. But I was quite pleased to say I’d become a friend of Dorothy.
And then the parade began.
It was fun.
As I said before, Blackpool is, generally, a gay friendly town. The parade went down a length of the seafront and there were large crowds of people lining the route, shouting support, waving cheerfully, and clearly enjoying the spectacle.
I was giving out of some of the lollipops that had been entrusted in my care (not all of them – I’m not that generous) and I got to waving at the people by the side of the road. There were a handful of Christian protestors who didn’t seem to approve of Gay Pride. I’m not quite sure what their problem was: once you get the tune to It’s Raining Men inside your head, it’s difficult to hear anything else.
I had a wonderful day on the Gay Pride event. I had a chance to catch up with some old friends and make a handful of new acquaintances. The weather was perfect, the atmosphere was light-hearted and cheerful, and the music was YMCA-tastic. I hope to be going again next year, if not for the fun and friendship – certainly for the free lollipops.