I have a new superhero identity, almost-unanimously determined by about a hundred people, completely without contact or conferring. Saturday
Let's cut to the chase: elementary mistakes were made in the construction of my costume. One was having a stomach made of flab rolls. The others were: don't spray-paint your hands with CAR PAINT without putting vaseline on them first; ensure EXTREMELY THOROUGH COVERAGE of sun cream or you'll end up burnt exactly where your necklace rubs and nowhere else; put the false eyelashes on BEFORE the eyeshadow and such or they'll just stick to the glitter and come off immediately; spray-paint your gaffer-taped heels for luck. Overall good though: https://www.instagram.com/p/BWR5hlVB58n/?taken-by=derekdesanges
We headed down to Marble Arch (me sweating madly in my Shield of Modesty windbreaker) for initial meeting with people we were meant to be marching with under the assumption they were a legitimate concern; after freaking out people in M&S getting more food Fiona and I met up with Ruthi and then with Suzy, who explained that it was a "bust into the parade and make a statement" deal rather than "infiltrate legitimately and THEN do the Direct Action" thing (which I wasn't overly keen on as these are not my "staging a die-in" shorts. These are my "dance and hold in your jiggling stomach" shorts); then met Maud, and finally Rose, before dividing - Suzy and Maud went off to be Trouble and the rest of us went to Portland Place to find the FEU rep for wristbands, and to begin a long, long day of being repeatedly stopped by people with every kind of camera - from analogue to ipad to tv camera - in order to pose for them and in one case also give a very brief vox pop ("What does love mean to you?" - I gave a lame duck answer because my brain was barking DO NOT SAY "FISTING").
We were directed to where the FEU would BE but then had to sit there forever, getting hotter and hotter, eventually glittering a few people at their behest, and watching varied groups go by, getting into place. Lots of random tourists (many many of them South Asian men? I don't know why but... cool? OK guys) wanted their photos taken with me. Presumably for Bants. When we tried to go take a toilet break it became immediately apparent that they were checking wristbands now and we'd have to wait for the rep; Equity FINALLY showed their asses up, we got our wristbands, WENT TO PISS oh my GOD - massive queue, horrible toilets, etc etc - got some damn horrible food - waited around for another small eternity with a selection of t-shirted union members (including one American who didn't want any glitter on him and also referred to it as "tranny herpes" while he was talking to us, LOUD SIGH) and also a gold merman...
Eventually got moving. https://www.instagram.com/p/BWSvDzoh02Q/?taken-by=derekdesanges
I'll spare you a blow-by-blow account, but here are some highlights:
+ glitter makes you everyone's friend and some people's enemies.
+ my new superhero identity, as determined by yelling crowds, is "glitterman"
+ people will trade glitter for booze
+ tiny golden holographic stars look SO MUCH BETTER on afro hair than euro hair and i'm SO GLAD so many black people both in and watching the parade asked to have their hair glittered
+ rose & a couple of other people (one of the other NUJers) learned how to do the flag limbo thing - can't really explain - and did it to entertain the crowd every time the gap between us and the YouTube bus (so many corporations there - specifically too ones which have VERY PUBLICLY fucked the dog on LGBT content. Like YouTube) got really big or the parade slowed - huge roars of applause - the NUJer and the main flag dancer had FLAG DANCE CONTESTS which were also highly popular - rose and i had a glitter vs flag fight
+ the act of lobbing glitter in the air or sprinkling it behind you more or less constantly for 2-3 hours leaves you even more covered in it so by the end of the parade i looked like i was wearing a suit of armour and could not stop fucking beaming
+ literally people applaud a bit and as soon as you lob glitter they ROAR AND SCREAM it's like pressing a button? RTHE SHINY THIIIIIIIIIING
+ had to keep running to catch people up (did i take the opportunity to make salacious comments & gently cup the faces of men who demanded glitter beards? you bet your bum) and decided on an energy-saving bouncy skip instead
+ people even cheered me pouring additional glitter out of my bottle and into the bucket
+ small children think i'm literally fucking magic
+ "I'm seeing angels! are you real?" / "of course not, darling"
+ one guy's friends tried to volunteer him for glitter ("DO HIM!"), i gave them a stern lecture (brief) on consent, he gave me a heartfelt thanks, they said they were consenting for him, and i said "doesn't work that way bYYYYYEEEEEEE"
+ "we're from the BBC! can we film you pouring glitter over these people?"
+ rose: "i am LITERALLY bending over backwards to please the crowd" / self: "it's working, but i would like to point out that you are a hufflepuff and i am just buying their affection with shiny shit and it's equally effective"
it was bright, bright sun and clear blue skies all day. exactly what i wanted. barring being swept off my feet by a rich handsome bearded man (& the presence of maud and suzy) the entire damn thing was exactly, exactly what i wanted.
pics (will make future updates if i find any good ones by other people that are publicly available):https://www.instagram.com/p/BWSvlhuB3Uy/?taken-by=derekdesangeshttps://www.instagram.com/p/BWSvuBXBLoN/?taken-by=derekdesangeshttps://www.instagram.com/p/BWSvzr4hwBD/?taken-by=derekdesanges
also i'm now in the pre and post-parade group photos with Equity (we were invited; one of the older NUJ people was clearly well past traditional working age and one of the actors - much older, "I'm 29 on my profile, it's just the HOT AFRICAN SUN which has decayed my features darling" - informed us that a previous NUJ marcher was 90, and we had the now-traditional argument where people underestimate my age my a decade) so that's... nice. It's nice to belong to a thing briefly and also to have NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT
we collapsed into the pub and tried to marshal our other queers (maud, suzy, and also charlie) while necking cider - this is the first year i've marched and not been violently dying for a piss at the end, due to my strategy of peeing LITERALLY EVERY TIME i found a toilet. https://www.instagram.com/p/BWSwKi0htmW/?taken-by=derekdesangeshttps://www.instagram.com/p/BWSwoM9hDOR/?taken-by=derekdesanges
(new okc profile image y/n?)
while sitting we were bumped by a very young and very beautiful gay wearing the exact daddy issues t-shirt from prowler that i'd wanted but which wasn't in my size; he apologised for bumping us, i told him to apologise for buying the t-shirt i wanted and rendering it out of stock - he informed me "it's for a club night! i found out after i bought it - but the club's really boring?" introduced himself (oliver) and suggested that they might have re-stocked and then i could get one which "doesn't have make-up all over it" (gesturing to the foundation smears on the neck); "well," i said, pointing out the IMMENSE QUANTITIES OF GLITTER THAT I HAVE BEEN SHEDDING LITERALLY EVERYWHERE FOR TWO DAYS NOW, "i might find a way to mess it up anyway".
+ "moderately sparkly"
when we left the pub to get food the parade - which we were nowhere near the FRONT of - was still going. it continued as we disappeared up past trafalagar square (i'd have liked to have gone in, personally, but none of my party could have endured it - not even worth making the suggestion! and happy to accommodate in any case), being cheered at by random people who were sprawled in the closed roads, drinking, singing, holding hands, eating picnics in the sun, generally being a really, really, really good
party. The kind where no matter where you go you're going to have a twinge of fomo from not being everywhere at once.
as brain meltdown was approaching for everyone i tried to minihitler people to five guys, was stopped for a photo by some people in pret who were SO FUCKING NORTHERN that i GENUINELY thought they were from another country entirely, and then just brazened the living fuck out of standing in five guys in my tiny pants and explosions of glitter (my order went missing, a fact which was pointed out to me by a concerned gay beside me...) on the way back down to the wetherspoons - there to meet with charlie and theoretically suzy and maud, who just stayed in soho in the end (another place i'd like to have gone but TOO MANY PLACES TO BE ALL AT ONCE) - a drunk scouser demanded a photo and also regaled me with the fact that her daughter was gay and that she'd be gutted she couldn't have come to pride since her parents hadn't even known it was pride weekend when they booked tickets for a musical as a delayed christmas treat (gosh the long-ago days of Coming To London For A Christmas Treat)...
Wetherspoons wouldn't let me in without a jacket (actually what the unsmiling door man said was "you can't come in here like that", and i said, "do you want me to put a shirt on?"; he was the only unhappy person we encountered re Pride); we kind of sagged over some drinks for a bit, then headed down to the RVT.
One conversation with a homeless man called Dean about tattoos and one queue outside the RVT (shorter than expected) where a man in a kimono and heels called David asked if I had a plan for getting the glitter off and what my tips were (he was very hairy & apparently this played a role in his normal avoidance of glitter - I'd thrown all mine over the crowd so no fear of any non-contact infection at this point!) & my only real answer was "I have not thought this through properly".
Contact with Charlie (and Charlie's friend Sian) was brief, I got a text from OKC dude who'd had the same "my phone is in my bag because my pants are tiny" issue that I did; a message from Jack-from-Tumblr suggesting they might come by (I don't know if he did or not, I never ran into him)... things were slow to get going & Ruthi had a small crash because SO MANY DAY. SUCH EVENTS; then MANY DANCE.
+ dancing in a tunnel under a railway bridge: the power completely went out at one point and everyone started singing we will rock you until it became apparent that everyone only knew the chorus, and then the song degenerated into the Jeremy Corbyn chant because that's what happens now? why is this man a meme; the 1967 atmosphere increased by the regular playing of the radio one jingle from 1967 prior to hits from 1967 (goddAMN there were some bangers in the charts that year, too - didn't realise "Scarface" by Prince Buster was that old and thought it was from the 70s but I guess The Specials kind of sampled it in Gangsters in the 70s so) - much to the delight of Rose, who is heroically obsessed with the Beach Boys & Brian Wilson particularly; also because it's fucking OUTDOORS TECHNICALLY, people were smoking. Which hasn't happened in a nightclub since I was about 18 or so? Maybe 20? And felt appropriate if slightly annoying at times. Age range from about 70 to 18. Elizabethan drag queen. Drag Queens in heels so high they were 7 feet tall.
+ Played one of the hits from the QAFUK soundtrack and I went quietly fucking mental given that this was finally, finally, everything (almost) that i had wanted and expected back in 1998, including that song.
+ acts were various; stand-out was John Smith's White Rabbit performance which was a genuinely unsettling strip tease involving the vomiting of rose heads and yanking rose heads from their vagina and ended in platform-booted, wide-eyed total nudity.
+ another act involved, between songs, a sudden cessation of music and the playing of interview clips with Marsha P Johnson, followed by the queens raising protest signs that read "Trans Power" "The First Pride Was A Riot" "Do Not Forget" and doing circuits of the stage to make sure everyone damn well knew
+ a couple of moments in which i had the familiar duckie feeling of "should i go home? i don't think i'm having fun" which normally happen when i've been drinking and am not enjoying the song and people aren't showering me in adulation (and lbf i had A LOT OF ADULATION on saturday); happily almost every time this happened i wandered out into the smoking area and then each time the same very large, muscular, and beautiful black man reappeared to tell me i was wonderful, demand hugs - for the purpose of transferring glitter - and at one point to just straight up rub his face on my face so he could steal more sparkle (he also lifted me off the floor at least once). i'm not making this up, i think? because it does sound like my brain just invented something to protect my ego. i swear he was real.
+ quite a few people (old lesbians & men with beards primarily) made me either pet them or rub my face on them so they could have some sparkle.
+ at the beginning of the night, i was at the bar - "I like your shine", quoth a man, "I was just saying so to my boyfriend. You're very sparkly." / "I prefer radiant."
+ "I have sneezed in a craft shop."
+ "I like your outfit" / "I'm not sure it really constitutes an outfit so much as a benign STD"
+ Ran into Beard Chris (I hate trying to differentiate between Chrises; there's Adams, Siddall, Chris Bee, and Mr Chris, and I can't even call the Chris I see at Duckie "Gay Chris" because I could equally be talking about Bee, who is at least bi), who was dressed as a GIANT BABY ("HELLO, I'VE COME OUT DRESSED AS A GIANT BABY") because he was born in 1967. "I'm going to be FUCKING FIFTY in September!" / "That's wonderful!" / "IS IT?" / "When I'm fifty we're all going to be underwater." He reminded me about the NEW STRAIN OF SUPER GONORRHEA which can't be treated with anything, "Happy fucking Pride! At least we've got PReP!" demanded a glitter beard, and vanished into the night.
+ decided that opportunities are created as well as discovered and went to dance on stage with a bearded man in tiny red shorts who'd been nice earlier. he was delighted. i was delighted. had the songs remained good and had i not been discreetly dying at that point, i would have stayed and danced on the stage with him all night.
+ "oh fuck - i saw you earlier but in the dark you stand out even more" was an interesting compliment.
around 1.30/1.45 my remaining gays - rose and fiona - were sprawled and denying any further ability to dance; while i could probably have put caffeine inside me and found more songs, i had already had so many instances of being knocked in the wings - it is exactly as annoying as i remember from my late teens to go to clubs or gigs wearing wings - and was also starting to ache and hurt and generally feel PAST IT, and did not want to be That Guy to my poor friends who couldn't exactly fuck off when they were staying with me ("Do not," I said around 5pm, "Let me go home with anyone. This is now your responsibility." / "What," said Rose, "if we just come with you and watch?"
a gay on the tube, in a discreet "never kissed a tory" sticker: "You look so fucking smug." / "I've had a VERY Good Pride, mate."
a gaggle of straight wood green Blokes at the chicken shop, when i went to get my Post-Dancing Filth: "D'you have a good Pride then?" - said with absolutely sincerity, no menace, and no mockery. ("Excellent, thanks.")
a random straight in the street, STAGGERINGLY drunk, "oh yeah it's FUCKING PRIDE! I LOVE THAT. I love the gays. i'm gay meself. nah nah. hahah. Shit, I've lost my lighter."
a large contingent of straight people outside the stabby pub, getting into a taxi, with undertones of Generalised Organised Crime* (not the glassing pub, that's a different pub): "oh shit!" / "oh wow that sparkle" / "YOU LOOK SO FUCKING GOOD"
* look, i know my area, okay.
unprecedented: took a shower and also scrubbed my hands with isopropyl and detergent and basically gave myself the most thorough wash i have ever had, prior to bed
, in order to remove the seriously oxydised CAR PAINT from my ENTIRE HANDs.Sunday
Dragged my ass out of bed reluctantly, dragged my friends off for a reviving milkshake (https://www.instagram.com/p/BWUvozWBME-/?taken-by=derekdesanges
) and a reviving brunch (https://www.instagram.com/p/BWU0tmnBkFK/?taken-by=derekdesanges
) and a walk along south bank (https://www.instagram.com/p/BWVYhTahb4R/?taken-by=derekdesanges
) to the national theatre (https://www.instagram.com/p/BWVYmXnh0Er/?taken-by=derekdesanges
) - in this rather well-arranged merchandising section there was one major missed opportunity (https://www.instagram.com/p/BWVYqF7hXOD/?taken-by=derekdesanges
) and also a fantastic "artisanal" slingshot/catapult to tie in with the staging of Peter Pan; I picked one up and was about to say to Rose "tell me I can't have this", and had just opened my mouth when Fiona very firmly said "DO NOT. NO. YOU CANNOT." so. yes. I think we've agreed it's a bad idea. They also had Tom of Finland oven gloves; I limited myself to unicorn mini wipes and a card for Lindsay's birthday.
Bid adieu to my friends; went in to the "rehearsed reading" (kind of like a radio recording - bit of acting, mostly expressive reading) of Bent
, starring Simon Russell Beale, Russel Tovey... some other people I recognise from various productions but cannot remember the names of. It was still - still - very horribly emotional. I didn't realise that no one else I was going with had seen the movie, either, so in the interval Suzy had a bit of a cry on me, and at the end I had a bit of a cry on Suzy, and Maud had a bit of a cry in general. There was a Q&A afterward, which was heavy on the history (always very interesting - the Q&A involved Martin Sherman, who wrote the play; an actor whose name temporarily escapes me but who portrayed Horst in the late 80s one-night-only production that was staged specifically to raise enough money to found Stonewall - he was facilitating - and the director of this particular staging, who is also currently directing "The Inheritance" which sounds... harrowing in a different way), light on the technical stuff - even the people who asked what I wanted didn't really get proper answers on that front. Also the fucking... audience. Were told. Questions, not comments. ONE person listened to this. ONE. Also some discussion in our group about parallels in the rise of nationalism in different countries (I was drawing on what I know of Japan in the 20s, Fred is better-informed than the rest of us on Italian fascism, etc).
We weighed up the potential "unicorn chaser" movie for dealing with watching Bent (I think we settled on But I'm A Cheerleader); I started wobbling/shaking halfway over the footbridge to Embankment, put some tea in myself, then walked much, much more quickly than I was expecting all the way to Chinatown while possibly hyperventilating. Did not find what I was looking for in Chinatown despite actually overcoming my general horror of speaking to someone who works for a shop in order to STRAIGHT UP RUIN THEIR DAY trying to find out if something was in stock; went for dinner and ... didn't exactly calm down as such, but definitely changed gear; https://www.instagram.com/p/BWVYeHth_uA/?taken-by=derekdesanges
- carried on with my terrible, stupid British classic murder mystery which is all my brain can handle right now, and unfortunately was subjected to conversation at the next table from a young nerd man who apparently felt that his female nerd companion (French) might be the sole person left on this planet who is unaware that the fish comes raw usually in sushi. Yes. I'm sure she is. You patronising fuck.
Since I still wasn't entirely ... right ... I went to Soho and sat outside Nero on the corner of Frith & Old Compton Street with a milkshake and my nice cozy murder book; while I was moving chairs so some huuuuuuge bearish Arabic-speaking guys (it may have been Farsi or Turkish and I feel like a dick for not being able to tell them apart since they're all from completely different language families & it's like me saying I can't tell the difference between Danish and Spanish; on inspection of a video I think my initial assumption was correct - more "wa" sounds in overall speech, accent/rhythm definitely wrong for Turkish - which I hear a lot of at home & am more familiar with) one, who was very tattooed, got quite excited about my leg tattoos and asked who'd done them, so i took the opportunity to pimp out Biko's work and ended up having to find his instagram account for the guy & discuss where Biko works, when he's back in the country and how to contact him, as well as approving of his choice of future tattoo - not my choice of subject-matter but his quality-control was definitely admirable. For those about to make the obvious assumption, he was not hitting on me - he just really, really wanted to get something done by Biko, which is pretty understandable.
Hung around for about another half hour reading & trying to get a good shot of a street scene for art reference at some mythic future point when i have time for art again, then wobbled home. Way was slightly impeded by this: https://www.instagram.com/p/BWVk6nBBNOh/?taken-by=derekdesanges
Came home, despite prelude text warning of social/mental crash pretty much nearly got into an argument about the washing-machine but decided to be sad instead of angry.Stuff from other social media
FB: I've had a lovely weekend of partying in huge crowds of happy drunk gays and then being emotionally destroyed by theatre and talks of ongoing protest, in an almost narrative demonstration of what we have, and what is needed to protect and advance it. It is nice to be shown and told by your elders that the often selfish act of making art about yourself isn't wholly without value; it is nice to be shown and told by your peers that your presence is, even fleetingly, not only tolerated but celebrated. I am ... I think sorry is probably the right word ... sorry for my own contemporaries who lose sight of that. I wonder if it's the act of being cheered as well as cheering that changes the perspective from spectacle to communion. I wonder if audiences should be applauded back. -- Anyway what I meant to say was that I've got stuff to do today (not much because I already knew today would be a write off), but I'm physically fucking hiding from it in Soho because I don't want real life to start again just yet. (8pm, Soho, Sunday)
TWITTER: Am really enjoying this weekend off from constant grinding internalized homophobia actually / I get to look at attractive men and not immediately wish i was dead / As a result of said comfort I've had more unstressful casual or intentional physical contact with friends and strangers than in many months / Big news: turns out when I'm not brim full of selfloathing I'm actually quite a nice or at least vaguely personable human / He says, having taken nearly three hours to recover from first tiny amount of crying since December / Being a normal person is hard but so is being an angry stressed robot person I guess.
(I have had too many epiphanies in my life to expect these to last; my "understanding" is always circumstantial and emotionally-driven, dictated by the moment. But it is temporarily nice. It is good to be free from myself, and also from my house, and especially to see the city just swamped - swamped - in beaming, warm, sparkling & painty people, many of them gay/trans as hell, and to have all of the straight people I meet be delighted, pretty much, rather than hostile.)
[i am now very poor and cannot go anywhere or buy anything, please buy my books, etc]
ETA forgot - a man in the crowd squirted me with a water gun in a less than HOORAY fashion and more in an "i'm a jerk" fashion so i THREW GLITTER IN HIS FACE muaah