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'What Pride Means To Me': 8 Stories About Love, Life and Bleached Blonde Hair From The Irish LGBTQ+ Community

It's so much more than sexuality.

"Pride is feeling proud of who you are, Pride is loving being a gay man" 

Of all the months on our calendars, June is by far the superior time of year. Warmer temperatures hit, festival season is in full swing and the annual reemergence of the rainbow as a cultural phenomenon ushers in a season of Pride. Wherever you turn, it seems, you are greeted by the international sign of LGBTQ+ inclusion - from gay bars to international landmarks, painted postboxes and everything in between. Even the story rings on Instagram rotate in a rainbow fashion.

This year, as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that sparked it all, we're reminded just how different things were at a time when the very act of being gay in public was reason enough for police to raid and arrest. How it must have felt on that fateful June night in 1969 when New York City police raided the now-famed West Village venue and began arresting patrons and employees for violating the state's gender-appropriate clothing statute. 

Five decades later, Pride has evolved into a celebration. Often led by celebrities and public officials, colourful parades fill streets all around the world. Corporate partners increasingly lend their brands for the purpose to align with the cause. While some simply pay lip service by wrapping their products in rainbows, others succeed in exemplifying a true spirit of inclusion. 

In many ways, our world has changed significantly from what it once was in 1969. The LGBTQ+ community is represented in society in increasingly public and dynamic ways. June 24, 2019, marked the 26th year of Ireland's decriminalisation of same-sex sexual activity. In Leo Varadkar, we now even have the first openly gay Taoiseach in our country's history. Last May marked the 4 year anniversary of the marriage referendum which saw Ireland become the first country to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. 

Although we have come a long away since 1969, our work here isn't done. This Saturday, on June 29, the LGBTQ+ community of Ireland will come together to celebrate the rights they so rightly fought for but to also protest against those they don't and for their friends around the world who are still fighting for what they believe in. 

To celebrate, we asked eight people to explain what Pride means to them in 2019. Whether it's a celebration of all that it means to be queer, a reminder of how far there is to go in the fight for equality, or a place to take a stand, here are the Pride stories from the Irish LGBTQ+ community. 

Nikki Symmons

"Pride to me means inclusivity.

The pride parade is for everyone. This year is very special, 50 years since the Stonewall riots, one of those moments in history that made a pivotal change in society. The LGBTQ+ communities around the world deserve to be proud every day but this day, in particular, gives us great strength and hope that we can continue to make changes in all the countries who do not give equal rights to all human beings.

I now live in Switzerland and we are still fighting for marriage equality over here. Also, as lesbian women, we are also not allowed to have IUI - so this year, the march is more important than ever."

Ken Boylan

"When you reach my age, Pride is so important for the feeling of togetherness, that sense of community. It’s a huge part of who we are, who I am.

Now I know people often ask, ‘well aren't you just segregating parts of the community' or 'why should you have this event'. Well, my answer to that is ‘we have had to work for who we are and for where we are today - we never had our rights handed to us on a plate. There are countries even still today that can’t have Pride parades and this is for them as well.

Thankfully, I never was in the closet - I’ve always been proud - but I still remember my first pride and that feeling of ‘having to be careful’. Now, almost thirty years later, I can walk down the street on any given day holding hands with my husband and not feel scared. That’s how far we've come, that's Pride.

Pride to me is happiness in myself, being myself. It’s that feeling of being proud of who I am, of loving being a proud gay man. I never ever wanted to be anything but I am - I’m one of the lucky ones - but Pride to me is just being able to love who you are."

Regina George

"Pride is very special to me as it’s taught me to be resilient when faced with ridicule or rejection. 

Being the oldest of three boys, we danced our way through the tough times to become Ireland’s fiercest (biological) drag family so it’s heartwarming to know that together we’ve inspired others to live freely and happily, which would never have happened without our amazing mother, who taught us love and acceptance and to be kind to others - all of which allowed us to become the proud gay men we are today.

I’m eternally grateful for my tribe and I wish more people could live and let live, without pouring their toxic commentary on strangers walking down the street as well as the bully’s who never outgrew the playground and go through adulthood with a feeling of superiority towards those who are different.

I have every faith that in ten years time we’ll be living in a better world and a more inclusive Ireland, and I for one will be proud to say that I was part of that change."

Nick Costello

"My first Pride was in London. A dancer from a West End show bleached my hair a fetching shade of yellow in a Clapham maisonette and via an afternoon and evening of dancing in Brockwell Park with my brother and his friends, we ended up in a Walthamstow pub followed by a house party. It was all so very ‘just what people did’ and I loved it despite the scalp burn.

There’s a scene in Russell T. Davies’ brilliant and terrifying look forward ‘Years and Years’ where Anne Reid’s character, Muriel Deacon, the matriarch, gives a speech to her family about how they ’let this happen’. The speech galvanises them into action against an oppressive establishment. She warns them to ‘look out for the clowns’ because they sneak up on us and disarm us until we notice too late what they really are and we have already handed them power.

To me, Pride is our way of showing the clowns our faces, painted or not, corporate or alternative, and telling them, ‘we see you, we are watching you and we are a force.’"

Lorcan Nic Giolla Bhain

The first pride I ever went to was in 2008 and I remember feeling like it was the first time I could walk around the streets of Dublin and be as queer as I wanted.
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I did this photo shoot a week or two ago and got some really lovely shots - haven’t really shared much of em yet but this was one I thought was a good headshot. I’m having a lot of fun with my style where I’m trying to combine really femme and almost like super young girly things to kinda honor the little girl I was but never really got to be with more punky pieces of jewelry and yeah I’m liking the way I look for the first time ever really. I have a hard time smiling in photos cause my teeth are a bit yellow from all the coffee but also cause I started smoking when I was 12 and stopped a month ago. But also I remember someone making fun of my tooth to gum ratio and so when I’m taking photos im like OH GOD CLOSE UR TINY TEETHED MOUTH  but actually fuck that shit and fuck that guy who’s actually not a bad guy he just made a silly off hand comment - I like how happy I look in this photo. I think happiness is the prettiest thing ever and trumps all of societies imposed beauty rules and regulations... anyway happy Sunday lovelies ❤️❤️❤️#Sunday #selflove #baldgirl #trans #transgender #transgirl #transwoman #transwomenarewomen #transwomenofinstagram #mtf #transmusician #musician #music #artist #singer #songwriter #actor #headshot #irish #queer #lgbt

A post shared by Lorcan Nic Giolla Bhain (@sheherlorcan) on

I always felt unsafe or like I had to “check myself” as Panti Bliss does say. Ten years later, I have changed a lot - as has the country - regarding the way the Irish society views queer people.  l am now a proud full time presenting trans woman and I don’t feel the same anxiety about expressing my identity openly the way I did ten years ago. 
However, there is still so much work to do especially when it comes to the way the health system in Ireland treats Trans people.
Pride for me now means a good time where I can have a laugh with my queer family and straight allies. I hope in the future it can still be fun, but regain its political edge and be used as a way to highlight the issues queer people face not just in Ireland but around the world.

Thomas Crosse

"This year will be the first pride parade I'm going to from start to finish.

Throughout the years I've either been working or away....last year I got to see the last twenty minutes of the parade and it really brought it home to me as to why it is so important. 

Pride brings people together, makes people feel inclusive. As the years have gone by LGBTQ+ rights have gone from strength to strength but we still have a long way to go. Maybe you're reading this going 'ah sure I have a great life' and up until a few years ago, I was the same... I didn't understand pride, I didn't understand how it started and how it helped so many people throughout the world who can't march, to celebrate or reflect on their life and the lives of others.
This year, I'll be standing, waving, smiling, chatting along the parade for the people around the world who can't do it, who don't have the right to and for those who are battling inside their head.
Pride is here for people of all gender, sexuality etc; inclusive - whether they realize that or not!"

Paul Ryder

"Pride is important to me for so many different reasons.

It reminds me that we are not done fighting for rights. It’s a celebration of the rights we do have but a reminder of those we don’t, and our friends who are still fighting for what they believe in.

It also is a beautiful day to be reminded of our friendships with our community and their outer circle. To keep us grounded in our happiness and inspire us to continue to inspire others."

Victoria Secret

"Over the years Pride taught me that I’m not alone and that there are so many people who love and support me. It’s a chance for our community to spread a message of love and equality and also for ally’s and organisations to make themselves extra visible to support the message of equality.

I love to see how many families now come out to enjoy the day and show their support and only wish I could have seen this visibility in the same way when I was growing up so I could see I was not alone.

Lastly, it’s a great time to send a message across the world especially to other countries who are still working on achieving small steps towards the decriminalisation of homosexuality."

Main image by @taecheung on Instagram

READ: 14 Glittery, Rainbow-y Ways To Support LGBTQ+ Rights This Pride

READ MORE: Where To Protest (And Party) For Dublin Pride