These are personal stories from members of our LGBT+ Network to support Virtual Pride.

I’m aware that not many people reading this will have met me, or heard me speak, so Hi! I’m Beth, I’m Chair of the CQC LGBT+ Network. I am a shaved head, funky coloured glasses, cis woman of forty-mumble years old. And the first time I attended Pride was 7 years ago.

And I think that’s got to be the heart of whenever I talk about Pride and the importance of Prides to me. It took until I was thirty-odd years old to go to Pride. It took me a long time to know that a Pride march was the place for me, and a lot longer until I was actually out enough that attending a Pride felt like an option for me.

So Prides, for me, are a gift. They are a joy I have been given relatively late in my life (not my whole life, obviously, but life *experience*).

I grew up in a small town which very definitely didn’t have its own Pride (or any non-straight people in my experience). In fact, growing up I’m not sure I knew that Prides existed. I went to college, got married, had a child (all of these things happily) and settled in another small town that again, did not have a Pride or any kind of LGBT+ community that I knew about.

By this time I was a little more aware of myself and definitely more aware of the breadth of human experiences. The internet has its downsides, but when you’re isolated it’s an amazing place to find community, learn about the world outside your narrow experience, and people like yourself.

So I entered my thirties knowing I was queer, but still happily married and so thinking that it didn’t really matter because being out wouldn’t affect my day to day life. And I’d love to say I was right but I wasn’t. It just nibbled away at me, not being able to openly be my full self anywhere other than online. It wasn’t that I wanted to be in a different relationship, I loved my husband dearly, it was just that I couldn’t express the other parts of me out loud.

When I talk about myself and my experiences sometimes I get the feedback that it is very ‘brave’ of me to tell my story, and I never quite understand that, I’m just talking to what *is*, where’s the bravery in that?

But I suppose I’m comparing myself to a much braver person, I’m comparing myself to my brave and beautiful wife, who came out as trans after a lifetime of repression, self-hatred, and religious guilt and loathing. In her early forties she said ‘enough, and no more’ and declared who she was, not without fear, but with the knowledge that *not* saying it any more would be too much. To this day I cannot fathom how much courage it took to do that.

And here’s where I often get called brave again, brave to stay with someone I’d been married to for nearly twenty years and loved just because she had the strength to be herself knowing what it might cost her. It’s not bravery, it’s seeing someone blossom from the person I loved anyway to something so much more and exactly the same at the same time.

So my first Pride wasn’t ever me saying ‘this is my place, this is where I want to be’, my first Pride was me saying ‘this is my beautiful wife, I am so Proud of her’.

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Beth at Pride

We marched and cheered and smiled (grinned) surrounded by people like us. We made joyful, triumphant noise in celebration of who we are, and defiance to those people who say we should not be.

And that’s what Pride remains for me, and why I am particularly missing it this year. It’s where I go to be myself *loudly*. I talk about myself when asked to, and I think there is so much value in doing so, in giving people the opportunity to learn from people with different experiences and giving some of those people a glimpse of who they are and that they are not alone.

Pride is the definition of people saying, ‘you are not alone, we are not alone, look at us - we’re wonderful and here and joyful’. And I always hope that someone who sees us from the crowd one year, will be marching with us the next year, happier and more confident in themselves.

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