This weekend a few of us Harlots attended Nottingham Pride 2016 to celebrate and support members of the LGBTQIA within our city’s community, while also doing a spot of flyering for our upcoming bout and spreading the word of Roller Derby. This was my first attendance to Nottingham Pride in the 5 years I have lived in the city (I don’t count passing through on my way to work as attending… sadly) and the atmosphere was awesome! You couldn’t escape the sense of unity and you didn’t really want to.
It was really great to be there and experience it with my team mates.
But I want to talk about pride, what it means to me and also a bit about how that links in with my experience with Roller Derby.
I’ve known I was gay since I was 15 years old. I probably knew before then, thinking back on my childhood, but back then you weren’t really taught what that meant. People in the LGBTQIA community weren’t as visible as they are now, because it was still heavily frowned upon, or the butt of a joke. Boy George, Elton John, Graham Norton, Lily Savage (Paul O’Grady); these were the only celebrities I knew about growing up who were gay. There wasn’t really anyone I could relate to, celebrity-wise. But that slowly changed as the years went by and visibility for the LGBTQIA community became so much clearer, so much more accepted. I was incredibly lucky to be accepted and supported by those around me when I came out, but sadly that isn’t always the case for others.
So where does Roller Derby come into this? I started skating almost a year and a half ago, I was in a pretty dark place and still picking up the pieces from a failed long term relationship. I didn’t have many friends in Nottingham, not many people I was really close to. I felt lonely and secluded. But when I was properly introduced to Roller Derby by a friend who skates for another league, I knew I had to take the plunge and do something positive to bring myself out of that rut. Roller Derby did that and then some! You see the thing with Roller Derby is that it’s so inclusive, you get people of all genders, sexualities, body types, abilities, backgrounds, races and religions who play and no one bats an eyelid. When you’re in a Roller Derby League you’re not gay, you’re not asexual, you’re not trans*, you’re not straight, you’re not queer; you’re a blocker, you’re a jammer, you’re a referee, you’re a bench coach, you’re an NSO. You’re human. That (and many other things) is why Roller Derby is so special and incredible.
To say that Roller Derby changed my life is an understatement. It improved my confidence, it got me out of the house and doing something active and productive. I got out of a job that was making me miserable and into one that uses my creativity and design talents, because of Roller Derby, I made a network of lifelong friends who I consider my family away from home and, I don’t mean to take this blog to a place cheesier than a hot Camembert but, I also met the single best person to ever enter my life. Through all that, not once have I ever been made to feel that I am less of a person or singled out because of who I am. So yeah, Roller Derby is a bit good.
I’ve been asked countless times “why do you need pride?” – It’s simple, all you have to do is look at recent events for the answer. 49 LGBTQIA people lost their lives in the Orlando shooting in June and a further 4 badly injured. That’s why we need pride. We will stop needing pride when we stop being butchered, when we stop being segregated from rights we should have, when we have stopped becoming homeless, when we can stop living lies out of fear of losing all those dear to us, when people stop staring and hurling abuse at us in the streets and when we stop killing ourselves because of our sexuality or gender.
We will stop needing pride when we are treated by the rest of society in the same way as we are treated in the Roller Derby community; like people.