(Later post edit: this post has been in the archive ever since 2am, and I *have* to finish it. It's gonna be long, people.)
WELL. *takes deep breath*
Emma and I managed to get to Baker Street with no trouble at all, thankfully. (Although I did have a brief moment of paralysing panic when I realised that tube stations are a *tiny* bit more crowded that I had previously recalled.) However, whoosh, we were there in no time.
We spent two and a half hours walking up and down Baker Street, and it was just phenomenal. I mean, I knew there would be staggeringly huge amounts of people there, despite the rain, but it was INCREDIBLE. Floats and buses of every shape and colour, and every third step people were dressed in the most brilliant costumes (although I did feel for the men handing out promotions in just underpants - they must have near to catching pneumonia), and everyone was so immersed in it; banners and balloons and slogans and whistles all over the place.
We kept wandering around in a state of total amazement; we both live in Cheltenham which, although it's not a homophobic place as far as we can tell, doesn't seem to have any kind of gay culture, as it were. I've only ever seen one openly gay couple in the town, and I've lived here my entire life. To be in the midst of all of this was the most exciting and liberating experience. No weird looks, no raised eyebrows, no jibes. Just people celebrating their sexual identity without having to put up with any crap. And that was before the parade even started.
Anyway, me and Emma tagged on to a group just as the march was about to start, and were given placards and balloons to hold up whilst we marched. (Although whilst we were waiting they had to be replaced, as it was pouring down with rain and they eventually sagged on their posts. As did the balloons, prompting hilarious Pride London sound bite #1; "Girls, I think your balloons need Viagra.") We had to wait a long time for all the floats to set off, then the walkers followed.
I've been on one protest march before, in Cheltenham, and I found that thrilling enough; the noise, the shouting, the banners, and that feeling of fighting for a cause you believe in. This was...this was indescribable. There were *thousands* of us, parading down a closed Oxford Street blowing whistles, cheering, shouting, a never-ending stream of people and noise. And lined up all the way along the street behind barriers were thousands more well-wishers cheering us on. It's like I said before; going from being quietly bisexual amongst pretty cruel teenagers, to being immersed in this environment of thousands of proud and like-minded people; it's a massive change, and it was so bloody exciting. We both had the time of our lives.
On and on and on; through Oxford Street and Regent Street, making our noise and stating our cause, blowing our whistles and getting covered in rain. And it was good.
About the end of Regent Street (I think), we encountered about thirty people on the street corner carrying anti-protest placards; some of them saying "Bring back section 28" or "Ban homosexual marriage"; although most of them were quotations from the Bible. Neither of us were expecting that, but the leader of our group said there was always a few people who turned up with those. I felt a kind of mixture of anger and amusement; what on earth is the point in using Bible quotations as protests? None of us are going to bother reading them all the way through as we go, or pay attention to them.
Nevertheless there they were, and again, it was such a fantastic feeling getting back at them; marching past them and blowing our whistles full blast, and waving at them as we left them behind. Beating the former system. Very good feeling.
Anyway, after a while we were approaching Trafalgar Square, and that's when it happened. I was vaguely aware that me and Emma were suddenly walking in an area with less of a crush. I cast a casual glance at the crowds lining the street, behind the barriers...
...and there, about three metres away from me, was John Barrowman, clapping and cheering everyone on.
Seriously. I have always told myself that if I ever met (or came close to) a celebrity, I would remain calm and collected; they're just people, after all. I have never thought of myself as a breathy, star-struck idiot. But...oh God. Barrowman. John Barrowman; the guy I've followed (well, not literally) ever since he was in Doctor Who, I've seen him in almost every TV show there is, and shamelessly got sucked into Torchwood, and, okay, fancy the pants off him, and there he is. Just like that; cheering people on and clapping, looking utterly gorgeous. I wasn't expecting to see him until the show, much later on. I was caught *totally* off-guard. Jesus, it was surreal.
I wish I'd had enough sense to store my reaction to memory, but I was so flustered that I didn't think beyond the present. I know that my legs turned wobbly and my stomach did an odd leap, and I was left clawing at Emma's arm hissing, "Ohmygod, look!"
Her reaction was the same. We were just left gaping at him for a couple of seconds, then we became aware that we'd suddenly stopped in the middle of the march so reluctantly took off again:
"Oh my God!"
"WE JUST SAW JOHN BARROWMAN!"
...whereupon we grabbed each other, screamed like idiots and danced about, eliciting an amused look from our group leader. For we are that sad. Once we'd calmed down just a tad, I made vague plans to double back and go and hug him, or something, but neither of us had the courage and were just left standing there dithering, saying, "We need to...!" then trailing off. Eventually we were hustled on by another group leader. We didn't calm down for at least another hour, I'm sure.
I'm still a bit miffed that we didn't have the sense to do anything but just squeal, instead of actually talk to him, but what could we have done? We were both in shock and if we'd approached him we'd have just looked like even bigger idiots. But at least we saw him! We were *that* close to him. That's definitely something, at least.
The march ended with a full circle of the area around the Square, and people playing the drums whilst we all danced down the street. It was bloody amazing. We got into Trafalgar Square before quite a lot of other people, so managed to squeeze ourselves quite close to the stage. Of course, as more came, we had to move, but we could still see fairly clearly.
It would take too long to describe the entire show, but it was just as brilliant as the march. We couldn't really see behind us, but it was completely packed with people from front to back, the faces in the background just a blur. We spent about two hours in the crowd to start off with, bopping to the music and listening to the speeches. The noise was incredible; nearly everyone had whistles and that, combined with a two thousand-strong crowd whooping, does nothing for the eardrums. Still, that was the point of it all.
We went a little crazy over Graham Norton, because I do like him a lot and he was hilarious; commenting on the weather, "The beginning of that march was wetter than a lesbian at Wimbledon, wasn't it?" and talking to the people closest to the stage; "You all look like you're having fun. These people at the front don't seem to know they're here, but you're doing your own special thing. Good for you!"
He also brought on Freema Agyeman ("Ladies, set your labia to 'stun', it's Freema Agyeman!"), who is just as gorgeous as she is on television, to present an award to a gay football team who'd won the final in a competition. She was there for about five minutes, but long enough for Graham to tell her to watch out for the lesbians, and to accuse her of going after the "one straight man out of eleven" in the football team. Hee!
Barrowman didn't seem to be on for a while, so me and Emma fought our way out of the crowd to find the Tube station for later, and eat some delicious and probably fat-laden chicken burgers, and just sit on the edge of the fountain for a while, absorbing it all.
We did try and fight our way back in after a while, repeatedly from all directions, but couldn't get anywhere where we could see the stage. I blame the umbrellas. We stayed out for a while, trying to work out a plan, when we heard the American woman presenting (name escapes me), start to introduce someone; we were vaguely aware of her saying, "He's got big...teeth.", before we snapped up to attention, and the moment she mentioned Torchwood we were off, grabbing our stuff and legging it through the crowd to see the stage. Turns out we work well under pressure; we managed to get very close and see everything that he was doing. Brilliant!
Oh, Barrowman. What a host. In the first ten minutes he managed to record the crowd saying hello his parents, and get us to sing the Doctor Who theme tune for Russell T Davies. It's quite a weird sensation hearing hundreds of people singing "Oooooooooo, ooo ooooo!" at the same time. He thought it was hilarious.
Ah, he was awesome. There was a lovely bit where he announced, "Now, this man doesn't make very many public appearances!" and his partner Scott (John called him his “better half”, which just made us melt completely) came out of the wings and joined him on the stage. After telling everyone that it was the anniversary of when they first met, and saying that it was the first time he'd done this in public, he kissed him in front of the entire cheering audience. SO SWEET!
(Then he went off and John grinned at the audience and said, "I'm gonna get it later!", but that's a separate issue.)
Okay, this post is getting *seriously* long, now. I'm sorry if I've bored you, and I've donated a huge amount of wordspace to John Barrowman and not enough on other elements. But, come on! First time seeing him in the flesh! There's bound to be a lot to say. (And, oh dear God, he is gorgeous as anything in the flesh. No airbrushing or editing for him, it's all natural. Emma and I spent most of our time swooning over him.)
We spent a long amount of time waiting for the show to end and for Doctor Who to start, but it soon became apparent that we wouldn't have enough time to watch it and get back. We left about eight-ish, and it turns out, due to overestimating time and extremely late buses, that we would have had enough time to see it after all, which pissed us off immensely. I found out today that they didn't show it after all, which is a shame; watching Doctor Who with that crowd would have been unmissable.
So there we have it. Pride London. Wet, exciting, hilarious, everything I'd hoped for. Definitely the most inspiring event I've ever been to; dozens of groups came onto the stage to make speeches and talk about their experiences, and let it be known that they'll never want the upper hand, they just want equality. I've heard so many people complaining about Gay Pride; that there's no point in it because homosexuality is much more accepted in Britain, and that people are marching just for the hell of it. That's a stupid, narrow-minded view, because the clue's in the name; Pride. We're marching to say that we're proud of our sexuality and that we're not going to keep it hidden, like people have had to for decades before now. We're not protesting, we're celebrating how open everything is now, and we're still fighting for equality where there still isn't any; because even now people are biased. They always will be, but with work the number of bigoted people can be lessened.
Definitely, definitely going again next year. It exceeded all my expectations, and it was brilliant being in London for the first time without a parent.
Whew. There we go. Right, Doctor Who.
...oh God, this post is going to be massive if I start writing about Doctor Who as well. I'll do it later.I leave you with something that keeps making me giggle whenever I think about it:
John: [to the crowd] Is it still raining?
John: [grinning] Well...shit!