I had been looking forward to this day for months. And I do mean months of planning, preparation and counting down the days. Finally it was here: Pride. Pride in London 2016 had been my first Pride, only a couple of months after I’d come out, and the experience was the most self-affirming event I have ever had the privilege to be part of. I had wept tears of joy for most of the day: I had found my community. Hence the unbridled excitement for 2017. 50 years anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in some parts of the UK seemed like even more reason to celebrate.
My experience this year was certainly one I will never forget… for all the wrong reasons. For an event that is meant to be all inclusive, I struggle to call that in the slightest. Think of bi-erasure and white dominance here, but there are some fabulous articles on that by people with better knowledge than me. I am addressing another problem: London Pride is an ableist space.
I repeat, London Pride is an ableist space.
I was attending Pride with four good friends, four of us with mental illness disabilities and one with physical disability POTS. As the Parade started, everyone started moving towards the barriers to watch. I noticed one wheelchair user, for whom people were happy to move out the way, but not to give up their space so the person could see the Parade. I did not see any other disabled-bodied persons at the event. My group were originally stood at the edge of the crowd. We couldn’t see anything yet, but reassured ourselves that we would be able to see the taller floats.
Then more people started joining behind us. Suddenly, we were in the middle of a crowd. This is when I started to panic and, as Voice Hearers will know, this is also when your voices start to panic. Ezra started yelling hysterically for me to get out and the other voices harmonised, an orchestra of screams in my head. As we tried to escape the crowd, people were reluctant to move and stood their ground. I cannot describe the utter fear that I felt. Utter, utter fear.
Isn’t Pride supposed to be the place where everyone should feel at their safest? I will would be grateful if people in the comments could suggest how to make the experience more disabled-friendly, so that I can compose a letter to Pride in London organisers.
Peace and Love