Midsumma Carnival: Time To Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride
Tomorrow will see the 30th Midsumma Festival open with the annual Carnival in Alexandra Gardens, Melbourne. Each Midsumma is a great opportunity for the Melbourne Gay and Lesbian community to get together, to connect and to show pride for who they are. But why is pride so important?
The opposite of pride
When you ask someone what the opposite of pride is, they’ll often tell you that it is shame. Most people within the LGBT community know what it is like to grow up feeling shame. As young kids, we innately know that there was something different about us to the other boys and girls although we found it hard to put our finger on what it exactly was. Worst of all, the other boys and girls seem to know too.
As we got older and the hormones began to do their thing, we began to realise that our own sexual awakening was different to our peers as well. In some cases, we may find this experience so uncomfortable that we disconnect with our sexual identity, almost becoming non-sexual. I can recall my own awkward years of not really feeling ‘anything much’ and it wasn’t until much later that the realisation began to dawn on me that I liked boys more than I liked girls.
We often go through high school barely surviving; at least that is what it felt like back when I was in school throughout the 80s. While I had a circle of friends, I certainly felt that it was often harder for me to fit in and this was the internalised shame reminding me that I was different to everyone else and not in a good way. That fear of being found out meant that I had to create this version of me that I thought was a good attempt to fit in. I rarely let down my guard. It didn’t mean that I was being fake, but I was certainly being far from authentic with my friends too.
The initial spark of pride
It wasn’t until I began to speak my shame that things started to change. Fortunately, I had a high school friend who also was going through their own sexual identity exploration and so seeing someone else have the confidence to step forward and ‘be gay’ gave me the confidence to begin doing the same myself. When it felt like I could talk about ‘it’ with someone and not be judged or threatened, suddenly the world seemed different.
Then I had my first night out at the gay clubs. Armed with my best straight friends (including one heterosexual male – kudos to my friend Rein for being way ahead of his time there!), we hit the Glasshouse, the Peel and 3 Faces. 3 Faces made a particular impact on me; it was a busy, thriving club that was absolutely packed, played this fantastic dance music (thanks to DJ Steven Beale) and it allowed me to see my first drag show; the incredible Lipstix with Miss Candy, Dorreen Manganini and the legendary Kerrie Le Gore. It was a night that changed my life. In these clubs, I found my identity. In these clubs, I found my people. In these clubs, I could suddenly be myself; this excited, nervous, fabulous gay boy. Here, all the things that I felt I had to sweep under the carpet in the ‘normal world’ were things that were celebrated and accepted. The wave of acceptance I felt in these dark, sweat filled clubs allowed me to continue to explore who I actually really was.
The pride fire burns
I had now reached the stage where my life became all about being gay. I looked back at how innocent I was in school and realised how much I had disassociated with who I really was as a means to assimilate, to fit in and to deal with the fear I felt of what would happen if I was found out. I recognised how that fear and shame had begun to dissipate as I met and spoke with others who were either going through a similar experience or who had been there before. I had found a place that I belonged; but now I had become addicted to it as though there was this underground society that managed to co-exist with the heterosexual world without ever having to fully integrate into it. The danger when this happens is that we can become just as inauthentic when we become obsessed with the expectations and culture of the gay world. In the gay world, a good body is gay currency. If you don’t have pecs and a six pack, you better bloody well be funny or camp or else you’re likely to become one of those wall flowers at the bar. Become a ‘somebody’ or else. And when you weigh that all up, it is equally unacceptable. It is still being caught up in something that isn’t really real but it feels like a stage that we still need to go through and explore in order to get to the other end.
I did know some people who managed to avoid this stage and perhaps they were just far more comfortable in their own skin than I was. On the flipside of that, it would be wrong to assume that hits the scene becomes scene obsessed too; we know this isn’t real. However when you look at the epidemic of superficiality that can occur within the gay scene, I think we all know that ‘the attitude’ that I’m talking about here is something very real.
The real value of pride
The real value of pride and in events like Midsumma is about being able to get out there in the world and show the world in our own way that we love the wonderful creations that we become. As we get older, we have the opportunity to begin to move away from the glitz and glamour and smoke and mirrors of the gay scene and start to invest in far more meaningful relationships and friendships. We start to let go of the expectations that we hold about what others expect of us and begin to explore what it is that can make our lives meaningful and filled with more joy. We start to move towards becoming even more authentic individuals, finally no longer ashamed of who we are, able to give that kid inside us who feels different a huge and reassurance that everything will turn out ok.
At events like Midsumma, we connect with friends both close and acquaintance, we can have a drink, have a dance, and celebrate the incredible diversity of personalities and identities that make up our often fabulous and equally often flawed community. When we embrace it all, it can become a truly wonderful thing.
To everyone heading to Midsumma Carnival tomorrow and to the Midsumma events over the coming weeks, may you wear who you are with pride! And of course, make sure you check out my LGBTQIA fortnightly podcast, OUTthink while you’re at it.
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