I attended my first pride parade ever — and it proved to be a very memorable experience indeed.

Yesterday was the day after my 31st birthday, and what better way to usher in a new cycle of my life than by attending my first ever pride parade, in Alfenas in Brazil.

First ever? But like, haven’t you been out for almost seven years? …I hear you. It’s true, this was my first experience at any pride parade, and the first time I actually had the confidence to go with an open mind, clear heart and with the intention to have a good time.

All the other times I had the opportunity to go in South Africa, I always managed to talk myself out of it, be it because of feeling scared of being othered, because of inherent voices telling me that I’m not allowed to express myself as a gay man as openly and publicly, or just because I felt like the music would be too loud (which it naturally was, but that’s besides the point and one of the weaker excuses I gave myself over the years).

Sure, I was a little anxious arriving at the parade hand-in-hand with a man, especially being in a fairly conservative small town, but, I was pleasantly surprised at the turnout, the energy and the general feel of inclusivity. Surprised and excited. People were all dressed up for the occasion (my partner and I actually wore a matching outfit, including some heart stickers on our shirts and some face glitter, which you can see on Instagram) and I was thrilled to see more than just the gay community mobilized and showing support for the LGBT cause. Seriously, it was a mixed bag, which was surprising. There were families, children, teenagers, regular-ol’ straight folk and all kinds of attendees out to show their solidarity for the cause. When I think about it now, it’s easy for me to get emotional about it, having spent a lifetime feeling shameful about who I am and my sexual preference. Yesterday was almost like another coming out for me; I got to express myself openly and in a way it was a healing experience too, having been the victim of homophobic abuse in the past.

The afternoon included great music, friendly faces, a few speeches, an appearance by the head of UNIFAL (the public university of the town), as well as lots of drag performances, photo ops and general merriment. Sure, the alcohol was flowing and the drugs were all over the show, but I’m glad that my partner and I got to experience this sober, fully coherent, and in a way that made the experience about more than just a party. This year, it was really about showing up, and showing appreciation for those that fought for the rights of the community fifty years ago in the Stonewall Riots. We were able to be out in public, expressing ourselves without fear of retribution as a result of these heroes, and it is something that everyone who is part of the LGBTQ+ movement should be thankful for.

All-in-all, it was certainly an experience I will never forget. It also brought me closer to my creativity, as being surrounded by so many fabulous people in their finest gave me a lot of ideas about my writing and general creative expression moving into this new cycle of my life. For example, I woke up rather inspired this morning to start sharing some of my photography, including a picture I took at the parade yesterday showing your “everyday” Brazilian woman watching a drag performance with a flag of solidarity. In a time where the country has an openly homophobic president, this seems to have a political connotation of sorts, but you can make up your own mind about this. Have a look at the new section of the site (and to see the picture) over here. I’ll be uploading more pictures to the section very soon.

Happy end of Pride month y’all, and thank you to everyone who showed their support this year, advocating for compassion, empathy and inclusion during and outside of pride month.

– Conrad was here.

Published by Conrad Schwellnus

South African actively adding more joy and appreciation to his life since turning 30.

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