So, yesterday I marched in a very important march. I’m not hugely accustomed to marches, I must say. The last major one in which I participated before this was probably the Easter bonnet parade at Heanor Church in 1985, and that was pretty major. There were at least 3 participants, all with two bonnets (except for my friend Sandra, whose reserve hat was disqualified because she had received help from her older sister with the colouring in). There was a panel of judges, an audience of tens of people and even a catwalk (well, church aisle if you must). It was all very Derbyshire’s Next Top Model. It was a tense, high stakes occasion. Never before had I faced the possibility of winning a complete set of 8 Jumbo Crayola Colouring Crayons in one go. I had everything to lose. There was a palpable air of tension surrounding the entire affair, a frisson of edginess, an undeniable edge-of-your-seat-something-could-kick-off-any-moment-ness when the participants faced each other down at opposite ends of the church, but as far as I can recall, reflecting as carefully as I can, I don’t think anyone threw a Bible at me.
Yesterday, however, someone did. Well, not at me directly, but at the march of which I was a small part. You see, the march in which I was taking part was the 2010 EuroPride march in Warsaw, and the Roman Catholic Church of Poland, determined not to be outdone by the glitz, style and glamour of the amassed gays, decided to take advantage of the occasion to launch its newest product: Flying Bibles. Designed to convert even the most cynical of heathens, the Flying Bible works on the principle of surprise, the principal surprise coming when it hits you in the head. Yes, the Flying Bible is quite literally all about knocking you out with the gospel. Its design is remarkably similar to that of the conventional Bible we’ve come to know and love over the centuries, except that it comes with a somewhat bulky launching mechanism, currently a small Polish bigot with a strong arm. And the strong-armed bigots were out in force yesterday, mainly at the beginning of the march route but also dotted sporadically along it. Not all of them had been able to get hold of the new Flying Bible, however, and so some reverted to the more traditional conversion methods of eggs and rocks. I must make it clear, however, that I think it was the Neo-Nazis chucking the masonry and poultry around and not the Roman Catholics. I wouldn’t want you to think that the Christians had resorted to terroristic acts of violence to get their point across. Not at all.
Marching along in the incredibly hot Warsaw sun yesterday, singing a couple of favourite tunes, tapping my toes to the beat of the music from the disco lorry in front, shielding my ears from the deafening vuvuzuelas, I couldn’t help but reflect back on my previous marching experience…the great Easter Bonnet Parade of 1985. And I couldn’t help thinking that the two occasions weren’t really that different. OK, I wasn’t the target of flying Bibles, eggs and rocks back when I rocked the aisle of St. Lawrence’s with my funky bonnet, but I was proud. I was definitely, undeniably, unashamedly, very happily proud. Of myself, my hat and my life (all 6 years of it).
And yesterday, surrounded by Polish riot police and people holding signs telling me they didn’t like it doggy style and surrounded by good, good friends, young and old(er), tall and short, black and white, British and everything else-ish, gay and straight, I felt like I was 6 all over again – I felt proud. Not the kind of pride that you feel when you finally manage to get the lid off the jar of honey that’s been stuck solid for months with only a tiny bit of it ending up on the floor and in your hair, no, a real, deep-seated pride. A pride in who I was, what I was doing and what life can be like. It felt good. Damn good.
I’m not sure whether the Christians or Neo-Nazis felt proud of what they did yesterday. I suspect that many of them did. But I am sure of one thing: my pride will stick with me for life and make me a better person. Their pride will simply make them look ignorant. What did Jesus say? Love your neighbour as yourself. I can safely say that I love the fact that these bigots are passionate about their beliefs, but I’d just like to let them know that I can get pretty passionate too. Whether it be an Easter bonnet parade, a gay pride march or teaching the adults of the future that straight/bi/trans/gay are all OK, I can be incredibly determined. And I don’t need to throw anything at anyone to prove it.