"While Pride is not necessarily about HIV, I have adopted its “I’m ___, get over it” to fill the blank with HIV. I’m HIV, get over it. "
When I was in my early 20s and went to Pride in London, there was a military feel to the proceedings. We’d march, albeit in next-to-no clothing, but it would still be a march. Ingrained in feeling of the event was the history of what Pride meant. In fact, a TV crew randomly stopped me during it to ask me what Pride meant to me. Live on TV, a 20-year-old, I explained what I felt Pride meant to me. I went through the history of inequality and how this was the one day of the year we could express to the world being gay was OK. Somehow this wasn’t just to the world though? For me personally it was saying being gay was OK to myself.
I remember some very scared looking fellow marchers to whom this felt a really defining moment in their acceptance to themselves and similarly “putting themselves out there for everyone to see” and in my blinkered eyes and with only small knowledge of the New York Stonewall events, it really just felt like a collection of people that were marching to shout “I’m Out and Proud, Get Over It!”.
What I didn’t realise, and only realise now is that people marched for so many other reasons too. Yes, the banner of “Pride” is an excuse to exercise what it means directly but if that camera crew had come to me in the last few Prides they would have had a very different response. Where I was using Pride as an opportunity to show the world I was gay and to “get over it”, it has been too easy to extend that to the new version of me. The one with HIV.
Connecting Pride with being positive
While Pride is not necessarily about HIV, I have adopted its “I’m ___, get over it” to fill the blank with HIV. I’m HIV, get over it. Yearly, even if I wouldn’t march I celebrate the feeling of “I’m HIV, get over it” and even if Pride wasn’t set up for HIV awareness and acceptance I’d use the event for my own acceptance.
These days the event has become much more of a celebration than an angry stampede. Gay people have been accepted so much more than they had before and while we have so much work to do still, it’s a far cry from the international brutality that LGBT people experienced.
So now I look back to those heady days of being 20 and remember the scared and nervous faces and the story and memory of what everyone marched for has changed a bit. These people were likely to not just be marching about gay rights at all. In fact, like me now, they were individually marching for lots of other reasons too, many of them HIV+ and many of them to accept the fact that they have the disease. The saddest thing of all is that we are talking the late 90’s where so many of those people marched in vain (marched right next to me) and while they probably “got over it”, their bodies didn’t “get over it”. My next march will not just all be about me “getting over it” or not “getting over it” but actually it will be for those people that I marched with all those years ago that didn’t..