Hello and welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our calm corner of the geek web where we gather to talk about life stuff. This week, ahead of the Pride in London parade tomorrow, our deputy editor Rich looks forward to the festivities and talks about his own experience of coming out.
This weekend, the streets of London will once again be filled with rainbow flags, colourful costumes and more sashaying than a season finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
That’s right, it’s time for Pride – and I for one will be heading out for a weekend of laughter, gins-in-a-tin and, if last year is anything to go by, regretting I didn’t apply more suncream. But, for me, it’s also a good opportunity to celebrate being part of such an awesome and diverse community – and one that I definitely don’t take for granted.
In truth, I’ve umm-ed and ahh-ed about writing this column. As someone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s hard not to feel at best troubled and at worst genuinely worried about some of the issues we’re still facing and the events we’ve read about in the news in recent months, both here in the UK and overseas. But, while it’s important to acknowledge those concerns, this doesn’t seem the place to focus on them. Instead, I want to talk a little bit about why I’m going to be pulling on my rainbow Avengers t-shirt and celebrating like a loon on the streets of London – both as a proud geek and as a proud gay man.
If that sounds easy for me to say, it hasn’t always been. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about writing this now. I came out for the first time only days after my 34th birthday (for context, I’m currently approaching 37 – the “official” start of my late thirties, or so I’m told, but that’s a different issue). Before that, I’d spent years internalising anxiety about my feelings and struggling to admit them to myself.
Everyone has a different coming out story, and I’m fully aware that I’ve had it much easier than many. I spent months psyching myself up, secretly scrolling through helpful advice from websites such as RUComingOut and Stonewall, before I could finally muster up the courage to actually commit to telling someone. Without wanting to belittle anyone else’s experience, the overwhelming reaction I received from my friends and family was weirdly (to me, anyway) underwhelming – no one cared as much as I had built up in my own head.
For me, it really was better late than never and – cliche alert! – it immediately felt like a massive weight had been lifted. There’s not a day goes by that I regret choosing to be open about who I am.
Those internalised feelings didn’t just go away overnight. But the way in which I overcame them was to fully embrace the community that had immediately embraced me. One of the biggest opportunities for me to do this came through sport. I bit the bullet and joined a mixed, inclusive softball club, the London Raiders, through which I made fast friends with lots of people from different backgrounds, all with different, interesting stories to tell. It challenged some of my own preconceptions and I immediately felt like I’d found a new crew.
And by last summer, I’d built up the confidence to not only attend my first ever Pride parade, but actually march in it – and wave around giant inflatable bats (not a euphemism) with giddy and ever-so-slightly inebriated abandon – alongside my teammates. They’re a diverse, hilarious, supportive and inspiring bunch. And the fact that many of them are happy to listen to me wanging on about Endgame time-travel theories and why Storm should totally be in a Black Panther movie is just a bonus.
One thing I wanted to try and avoid here was descending into a rant about why we still need Pride events like this (as easy as that would be to do). But it’s important to recognise the significance, both for those who are out and those who haven’t yet felt able to be.
The day that I was offered the job here at Den Of Geek, I remember heading straight for my phone to tell my mates, only to get distracted by Twitter (standard) and the mild brouhaha that was developing around some screenshots from the recently released Spider-Man PS4 game. You probably know the ones: in which Spidey is seen perching on a wall next to a rainbow flag. Thankfully, the naysayers seemed to be in the minority – at least in my own timeline-bubble – but I couldn’t see the issue (aside from the obvious prejudice from certain corners of the internet, of course).
Ol’ webhead has always been my favourite superhero: the gawky teen who didn’t quite fit in at school, but who used his powers as a costumed crimefighter to stand up for those who needed it most. It seemed like a no-brainer to me: why wouldn’t the gamemakers see fit to include a nod to Pride? For me, those screenshots represented an extremely small but significant colliding of worlds, and I’m pretty sure it did for some other gay Spidey-fans, too.
Over the past few years, I’ve finally learned to be proud of who I am, but I couldn’t have done so without the support of friends, family, and the amazing LGBTQ+ community. As we’ve written here before, finding your tribe can be a powerful thing. It’s not easy, and everyone’s experience is different, but there are a load of brilliant organisations that can provide help and support – we’ve listed just a few of them below.
And if you’re going to the parade in London – or any of the various Pride events around the country this summer – have fun, be safe, look after each other and, above all, stay brilliant.
Some helpful links to organisations that can offer support: