Hello everyone! I’m Anthony – pronounced Antony: the h is silent – and I’m thrilled to be one of your first-year student bloggers for 2016. If you’re feeling nosy my bio is in the “meet the bloggers” post, but the gist of it is I’m from Christchurch, I’m studying a conjoint Arts and Music degree and I’m living in University Hall this year.
In this my first blog post, I want to share with you the most defining part of my past few weeks. The people, the toga party, the Uni Hall lifts – all these things are worthy of discussion. Just now, though, I want to talk about something altogether more personal. You see, on Saturday the 20th of February, I joined the university float in the Pride Parade down Ponsonby Road.
A Little Background
I’m gay. I’ve struggled with my sexuality for a long time and it’s only recently that I’ve started to embrace it. This change was partly provoked by watching the film Pride, centred around a group of LGBT activists in 1980s London and their connection with a Welsh mining village. There’s one line of dialogue in particular that really resonated with me. Group ringleader Mark is giving advice to the newbie Joe, who is still living with his homophobic parents. Mark tells him: “Have some pride. Because life is short, okay?”. It may not strike you as profound, but it certainly shook something deep inside me, probably because I myself didn’t have much pride at the time. This quote really put things into perspective for me, and I’ve been trying to live by it ever since.
As such, in the months before leaving home I did my research, and what do you know? The Pride Parade would be on the day I arrived in Auckland. This seemed the perfect opportunity to make some positive changes in my life; I began to have dreams about taking part. A little later, I got an email asking if I wanted to join the university float. I immediately clicked out of it. I became apprehensive; suddenly I wasn’t sure if this what I wanted. A decision was only reached the day before leaving: to hell with it, I thought, I’m doing this – end of discussion.
The Fateful Day
I arrived in Auckland in the morning, and I spent the next few hours buying things for my room – I would move in the next day. Linen and laundry baskets were at first effective distractions, but as time wore on I became increasingly nervous. In the hour before the parade I got restless and changed outfits six times. On top of everything else I was suddenly aware that I was a first-year and would know no-one there.
The time had come; bedecked in the trademark university blue, I tentatively made for the rendezvous point. Upon reaching Ponsonby Road I was confronted by the most fantastic spectacle: in front of me, stretching as far as the eye could see, was a line of people. There were all kinds there, dressed in all manner of things: men in full drag, men just in underwear, women in leather bike jackets. There were also many people who you wouldn’t look twice at if you saw on the street. Music was playing, and the man at the front in the stilettos and the dress was making announcements both rousing and outrageous.
I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Here, the thing which I had guarded so intensely and kept hidden for years was normal, accepted instantly.
Encouraged, I located the University float and was handed a laurel wreath to help me fit the theme of Greek Gods and Deities (dressed all in blue and looking distinctly mortal, I would have failed in this otherwise). My sincere thanks to the lovely lady from Engineering, who noticed my nervousness and made me feel welcome. If you’re reading this, I hope you know you’re wonderful!
After a short delay, which I only afterwards discovered was caused by some protestors, we set off down Ponsonby Road, accompanied by a band whose tunes were as groovy as their superhero costumes. Again I became anxious. There were cameras everywhere, spectators lined the streets, and part of me still squirmed at the idea of being recognised. I had premonitions of difficult conversations with people I knew from school.
Thankfully I didn’t act on the impulse to escape, and as I got into my stride I relaxed a little. My spirits were raised by the waves and cheers of the onlookers; I started smiling again.
And so it was that after an hour of on-and-off walking, we crossed the finish line and dispersed. Just like that, my first Pride experience was over. At this point I felt a mixture of things: I was exhilarated and more than a little proud of myself, but to be truthful I was shattered and relieved to have reached the end.
Some (Rainbow-coloured) Reflections
I had imagined that walking in the parade would be life-changing, but honestly I don’t feel any different. I’m the same person as ever. I haven’t suddenly “found myself”, and evidently I still have a wee way to go yet before I become entirely comfortable with my sexuality. That’s fine – it will come with time, and for the moment I’m simply glad to have had this experience. No, it wasn’t life-altering, but it was fun, even a little liberating. Importantly, I’m now able to see just how far I’ve come in a short space of time.
It should also be said that the parade reflects well on Auckland. The fact there is such an event here, and that is so embraced by the community, is a great credit to the city – I know Christchurch doesn’t really have anything like it. What I take from this is that Auckland is an energetic, happening place, which really celebrates diversity. It’s won me over. Yes, I think, here is somewhere I can spend the next four years of my life.