Last month was Birmingham Pride 2016 and for the second year in a row, The Unicorn and I walked in the parade with Papyrus to raise awareness of suicide in the gay community.
When I first began volunteering with Papyrus through their Young People’s Champion’s forum (YPCF) I knew right away that I wanted to get Papyrus into the Birmingham Pride parade.
Regular readers of the blog will know that I lost my friend Rory to suicide in March 2014 and his loss is what led me to Papyrus in the first place (you can read more about Rory and how I came to volunteer with Papyrus here).
Rory was gay and I was told, after his death, that he struggled with this despite having a very accepting and loving family, and that he had fought depression for much of his adult life.
As a young gay woman, I know about the struggles of coming out and dealing with those emotions and I wanted to do something to show the community that it’s ok not to be ok all of the time and that having suicidal thoughts doesn’t have to end in suicide.
“A Generation of PRIDE, A Generation of LOSS”
Organising ourselves this year was a lot easier as it was our second year in the parade, so a lot of the groundwork had already been laid.
Plus this year the entry fee was taken care of by Papyrus — in 2015, I had to do a crowdfunder to raise the £150 entry fee to walk in the parade as we didn’t have the budget to cover it as part of the YPCF.
This year was the 20th anniversary of Birmingham Pride and the theme was ‘A Generation of Pride’.
During our planning meeting, we came up with the slogan ‘A Generation of Pride, A Generation of Loss’ which was aimed at highlighting, and paying tribute to, those lost to suicide within the gay community over the last 20 years.
We wanted to let people know that suicide happens in our community too and that it’s ok to talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more lives we can, and will, save.
PAPYRUS with PRIDE 2016
On the morning of the Parade we all met in Victoria Square to get ready for the Parade.
We all had our PAPYRUS t-shirts on, which we donned with rainbow garlands — there was also rainbow nail varnish and even rainbow makeup!
We handed out the banners and posters we’d made and soon it was time to get into the line-up for the start of the parade.
As we set off from Victoria Square a presenter from Gaydio joined our walking group to ask us about PAPYRUS and why we were walking in the Parade.
Phil, myself and Jessica talked about what PAPYRUS meant to us personally and also shared our wider message for the gay community.
The interview was recorded and aired on Gaydio later that day to thousands of listeners across the West Midlands. It still gives me goosebumps to listen to it now:
Papyrus on Gaydio – Birmingham Pride 2016
As with the previous year, when we walked in the Parade for the first time, it was an emotional and fantastic day.
Over 75,000 people lined the streets of Birmingham to watch the Parade and the atmosphere was truly electric.
There were moments when areas of the crowd read our banners and posters, realised what we were all about and just began clapping or cheering. There were some visibly emotional responses from some, and others that wanted to take pictures with us or thanks us personally for just being there and sharing our messages!
The Unicorn and I got married the week after Pride in 2015 and it really was the best pre-wedding present for both of us to be there to walk with PAPYRUS.
This year was even better, to be able to walk in the Pride Parade as a married couple — to celebrate life and share messages of hope to thousands; to save young lives by letting people know that it’s ok to talk about suicide and know that many of those people may well go on to save a life themselves just by talking more openly to their family and friends about how they’re feeling.