• Harriet Bell

The First Pride was a Riot.



Although at first glance Pride doesn’t seem much like a festival, starting in 1965 as a riot at stonewall, it’s slowly become about the celebration of culture and fashion. I suppose the closest thing to a festival I’ve ever been to is Pride. Living in the UK without the resources to go to a festival, I just never could. resources being money to get there and the ability to enjoy camping. It’s simply never been something that appealed to me.


Pride


Pride events however are a staple in my summer, as a bisexual woman with so many queer friends and allies around me, it’s a brilliant time for me to see everyone and celebrate our queerness! As someone who dresses a little differently and looks a little different to the norm (I have half black and half white hair and love a dramatic sleeve) it’s so much fun to push my own boundaries a little myself, I haven’t shaved my legs for years now, and the first place I felt confident enough to wear shorts without tights was 2017 Pride! So, it’s something that’s very close to my heart.


I suppose there is a massive difference between a Pride Festival and a normal festival though. Normal ones cost a significant fee to get in, and when Manchester Pride started suggesting charging for tickets it was met with huge backlash. There are huge similarities, however, such as the extravagant clothes worn, live music and a very large presence in communities.


Balls


Festival and Pride Fashion often comes from queer influences, such as the Balls in the 1980s. Cult classics like RuPaul’s Drag Race is taken from the Balls and a lot of the references they make are a clear reference to them. The Balls were a celebration of Queer culture, participated in by mainly Black queer people. “Beauty and glamour and lights and music. That’s how we as gay people and trans people have gotten through our pain” These individuals had often times been disowned by their families in the suburbs in America and so travelled to the city to find work. Drag Mothers, still a common term today, who were able to make money for themselves, would take them in and support them, forming Drag Houses.


They would then often compete in the Balls, with predetermined categories such as Masculine, Feminine and Vogueing, as the simpler options. Vogueing, made famous by Madonna, was invented in these balls. Here shows a clear link between queer culture and mainstream music. Nowadays many music artists are queer, such as Lil Naz X, Hayley Kiyoko and King Princess.


More can be read about Balls here https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20180810-drag-balls-the-glamorous-performances-that-mean-resistance


The first Pride was a Riot.


And no, not a fun riot. With bricks thrown to stop police raiding a gay bar continually, the first pride is unrecognisable from the ones we have today. The fashion there was simply what people wore on the day they’d had enough. I think it’s really important, when talking about all the fun things that come with Pride Festivals to also at least mention that not all festivals had light beginnings, that some were simply a fight for human rights, now celebrated because that fight has come so far. However there is still much more work to be done. See here for a map of the world where the highlighted parts still see being LGBT as a crime.


https://www.humandignitytrust.org/lgbt-the-law/map-of-criminalisation/?type_filter=crim_lgbt


Let’s get back to Fashion


The Fashionable link here is the gowns and styles used at the balls often trickled in to mainstream and festival fashion. The trickle down from the balls was to encourage celebrities to dress up more extravagantly to music awards and their own concerts, and then that this would be reported by the media and people going places where they felt that they could dress up in more opulent styles, such as Pride and Festivals.


Something like Pride and the dress styles there is inspired hugely by Balls, being yourself and being elevated to a point of the Queens of the past (not the monarchy, duh) allows queer people to honour the people that fought so that we can be ourselves without harassment from the law. Whilst homophobia and transphobia are huge problems in our society, slowly tides are starting to change. I suppose the takeaway from this is that although Pride is taking on some traditionally festival elements, the origins and meaning must remain different to safeguard our heritage.