Sue is member of our 50+ peer support group. This year she enjoyed her first MindOut Pride bus experience, and what an experience it was!
I was having quite a bad time before Pride this year and last year was the first time I’ve ever seen a Pride parade. Then when it was mentioned in the group if anyone would like to go on the bus, I said yes. I hadn’t been able to leave the house for several days but I met my daughter for coffee the day before and I said to her “I had to force myself to meet you, I’m not going to be able to cope with pride this year. All the crowds, all the noise and the chaos it’s all too much.” She said to me, “But I’ve told all my friends I’ll lose all my street cred if you don’t go!”
So I forced myself to go. My daughter and all her mates were standing outside to wish me good luck. When she was a toddler I refused to stay in the closet. Even though I wasn’t in a relationship at the time, because I’m bisexual we used to get our windows broken nearly every night. When she started school, she wasn’t allowed to play outside at playtime. When I asked why they said they’d had threats from the other parents who didn’t want the queer’s kid playing with their children and they thought it would be safer to not to let her out where other adults passing by could get to her. She was in physical danger.
Now she was standing on the seafront with all her gay friends, willing me to get on the bus. How things had changed. My son has got Asperger’s. He finds crowds difficult and he said if I could get on the bus he would stand on the street corner to get pictures of me, which for him is a big achievement.
Other people have said that Pride isn’t political anymore. It’s not cutting edge. It’s all too carnival. When I was getting attacked in the street 25 years ago, I was telling people I was bisexual and bipolar in an era where people thought Norman Bates from Psycho was what mentally ill people are like. I wasn’t standing my ground to make a political comment. I was trying to fight for the right to be mind-blowingly boring and ordinary and still be me. You can be mentally ill, you can be gay or trans and not be a major political campaigner or a revolutionary. You can just be boringly every day, and if people accept that then it’s worth fighting for.
So I got on the bus. It was great because it was the MindOut bus, everyone was very helpful. They checked everyone was a feeling okay. On the top of the bus, you could sit down and disappear from view or you could sit downstairs, so I knew it wouldn’t be too much. I would only have to do what I felt up to doing and you’re safe from all the crowds and chaos. My daughter gave me a flag so I flag waved like mad.
Every time it stopped, the crowd started closing in a bit which was a bit much. So I just picked a person in the crowd to make eye contact with and wave to. It was wonderful. It didn’t feel like an overwhelming experience. It was a lot of ordinary fragile people on the bus and in the crowds. Just enjoying being themselves and being alive. I felt like I’d cracked it.
I’m not perfect. But I felt really good and like, “I’m bloody awesome, get a load of me!” I couldn’t have done any of that without MindOut. I felt proud. I’m still not a party goer, I didn’t go to any of the evening events. I’m not a political activist. I’m middle aged, chubby, full of wrinkles, rather boring, ordinary but bloody marvelous and I can be me. Then in MindOut, I can also be mentally ill, a bit fragile, a bit damaged. And it’s still Okay.