WHAT MY UNCLE TAUGHT ME ABOUT PRIDE

Instead of teaching me to ride a bike or my first swear word, my uncle taught me what it meant to be proud. 

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When I was little I had a favourite uncle. 

It was a pretty easy title to award him with after he dressed up as a clown, in full costume and with a face of caked-on face paint, to entertain a bunch of tantrum-throwing divas at my third birthday party. Legend. 

On the day of my sixth birthday, we got a call to say that my uncle had died. 

I was heart broken. 

He was my favourite uncle. 

He was my number one drawing buddy. 

He was my favourite form of entertainment. 

He was also gay. 

And he also died of AIDS. 

I say 'also' because him being gay was and is totally irrelevant. I didn't love him any less or any differently, nor did it change the way he loved me. In fact his sexuality had never even been something that had ever crossed my mind. 

I have always been proud to be his niece. When I was three I was proud that the silly clown at my party was my uncle. Twenty-something years later, and now with an awareness of the adversity he suffered, I'm incredibly proud of his courage. But, most of all, I'm proud to call him my uncle because he was an incredible human being. 

Pride Week has just come to an end here in London, but it was a topic that caught my attention a few weeks earlier thanks to a post by Damsel In Dior. Jacey posted a snap of her standing proudly in front of Paul Smith's Melrose Avenue storefront, where its famous pink facade had been replaced by rainbow stripes as part of Instagram's Pride Wall initiative

Her picture caught my attention for two reasons;

#1 It reminded me that, like her, I stand proud. I stand proud of my uncle, my friends, former colleagues, of a guy I took to my high school ball, of my friends' younger siblings. But I also stand ashamed that we are still living in a world that doesn't wholeheartedly accept love of all forms - no matter who it's from, to, or between - as just love. Plain and simple. In a funny way I wish that I didn't have to be 'proud'. That love between anyone and everyone, no matter their sexual orientation, was so ordinary that we didn't feel any different emotions. That we should all just celebrate love, and not have to celebrate that we're "allowed" to love. 

#2  As you'll know from my Instagram, I have this thing with walls. So on Saturday morning, Tom and I made our way down to Trafalgar Square to see London's very own Pride Wall, designed by London-based illustrator, Josh McKenna*.

It was in this moment, standing in front of the pride-inspired design, that I realised that while my uncle may not have been around to teach me how to ride a bike or to help me with my maths, he had unknowingly taught me one of the greatest lessons:

Yes, the series of Pride Walls may be special and Instagram-worthy, but underneath the paint, they're still just walls.

Exactly like my uncle. Yes, he was gay and he was a pretty amazing guy but he was also just another human being. He was incredibly special yet incredibly ordinary. And he, just like all others, deserved to be treated like it. 

So here I am, standing here damn proud. And, unlike the Pride Walls that will now revert back to their original form, that will never change. 

j x

 

* Unfortunately an empty camera battery meant we didn't get any photos of Josh McKenna's Pride Wall - rookie error!! - so you get me standing in front of a white wall with my pride flag. 

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LifeJamie BarrettLife