I was fourteen when I attended my first Pride and I was as scared as if I was going to the dentist. I don’t even like glitter, FFS. I’m an introvert from a quiet London suburb; surely the crowds, the noise; the larger than life characters meant I would be well out of my comfort zone? But peer pressure won out and I soon found myself squeezing through an impossibly small gap in the crowd to lean on the front rail, with a full view of the famous march. When I left the house I could almost feel the curtains twitching– what is that teenager doing in all those rainbow stripes? But here the face paint and glitter were standard. Bright, bursting colour was everywhere, vibrant styles, hair, jewellery, rainbows, voices – it was a real assault of the senses.

I had come out of the drab closet that is day-to-day life and was like – oh all this exists. Wow! People championing a variety of causes were chatting, supporting and putting their arms around each other and their enthusiasm was infectious. It was impossible not to feel like a part of something really, really powerful; and when a tall drag queen doing the march approached us, bent down in her platform heels and sprinkled dazzling blue glitter over our heads – I felt like I had come home. It may not have been a traditional ‘coming-of-age’ moment but, in that second, it was the most magical thing that could have happened. My friend and I beamed and high-fived: accepted! The quiet schoolgirl was a valued part of the community, of LGBT+ society.

The rest of the day was a blur of smiling faces and support; a few faces stand out; the bearded man who did cartwheels, the woman who gave us pin-badges and life advice – “never be ashamed to be you, girls”, the miners who taught us a chant that we would refer to for months to come. Pride is always politically charged, with people vocal and clear on latest laws, referendums and decisions and I welcomed that; it got me more interested in things I might not have taken much notice of on the news before. The ability to connect with the social issues of every generation is something that makes Pride important to allies and community members alike.

Pride opened my mind to a whole range of people and their worlds; people, whom, had I met them in another situation, I might have avoided, ignored or simply not heard. And soaking up the atmosphere of celebration and positive support it was hard to understand how so many could still be accused of doing something morally wrong or still remain victims of injustice. This year’s Pride in London theme was ‘Love Happens Here’, a message that we have perhaps never needed to hear more in the capital. I’m a Londoner and this Pride to reminded me of the amazing spectrum of people who exist in my city, all chanting for ‘hope, acceptance, activism, and love’. Love does happen here, and Pride has the potential to have meaning for everyone, whether we identify as gay or straight, and whatever we are fighting for.

I still hate crowds and glitter I can take or leave but my first Pride left me with something more than a couple of pin-badges. If you have not been before, why not give it a try?