Most of you probably are aware that June is the month of many Pride festivities and marches all over the world. In some cities hundreds of thousands have loads of fun with music, exuberant costumes and people from all walks of life. While in other cities a handful face their fears because despite of what their own government says, love exists in many forms and (almost) all deserve a place in the sun.
I haven’t been to a Pride march in ages, for all kinds of reasons, most of them practical, but also because the personal need was no longer there. I haven’t seen the inside of a closet since 1980 and to be honest, I’m not doing too well in big crowds.
Still, 1979 was when it all started for me. A few months before my eighteenth birthday I had had my first coming out of many. My mother spontaneously burst into tears and within a week had asked all her friends what she had done wrong, while my father told me to keep it to myself.
I didn’t care and I certainly didn’t listen. I knew I had discovered something about myself that was essential to my happiness and I allowed no one, not even my parents, to take that away from me. After a while, my parents realised that too and they accepted my reality instead of their dreams for me. I went looking for other gays and lesbians in Rotterdam and soon found them. And not much later, on a Saturday in June, I visited Amsterdam to participate in what was then called Roze Zaterdag. (Pink Saturday)
Now remember, this was 1979, and gay people were practically invisible. We were almost never on TV (and when we were, it was as a joke, dead or cured.) We still had to wait several years before the PC with internet was available. The handful of books on the subject they had in our local library were hardly of the happyhappy joyjoy kind. I personally didn’t know even one single out gay or lesbian, and yes, I was the first in my family, school and neighbourhood to fully step out of the closet.
So perhaps you can imagine a little bit what it felt like to see perhaps 2000 people like me, even though the number of eighteen-year-old girls/women marching in the parade must have been extremely low, because during that time most lesbians came out at a (much) later age.
I no longer knew just on a theoretical level that I wasn’t the only one, I saw it with my own eyes.
It’s 33 years later, my wife and I have been together for 30 years now and our sons are getting ready for university. I wouldn’t have all of this this without the brave women and men who took the risk of full visibility. I owe them. We all do.
PS. In case you're interested in what it might have been for those without money or power, long before the first Pride was celebrated, you might want to take a look at Unspoken.