Jordan Charles (Photo: Supplied)
I remember being squashed between a mass of people on one side and the glass window of a sushi restaurant on the other.
I remember grabbing a handful of rainbow flags and raising them above my head.
Then, I remember hearing the names of the fallen recited and repeated by a mournful crowd. I remember the London vigil for the Pulse shooting as if it was yesterday.
The events of that weekend shook me to the core and pushed me to make a commitment I’d been putting off for a while. I pledged to become a queer activist.
I began to realise that many of my friends were already heavily involved in these causes. They were fighting the good fight every day.
I saw some of them go through incredibly difficult and dangerous situations. I watched online as the Stansted 15 stood trial, putting their lives and bodies on the line to prevent illegal and immoral deportations.
Last year, I saw live video of my friends storming the red carpet of international smash movie Bohemian Rhapsody with ACT-UP UK. Seeing them on the front lines made me feel proud, but also guilty.
I was very aware of the ways I was inhibited from taking the same actions they did. I work in entertainment: the hours are long, word spreads quickly and many employers and clients could drop you in a heartbeat if they saw your face on Page 4, clapped in handcuffs.
This is to say nothing of the added danger of any interaction with law enforcement as a person of color.
I say all this in the knowledge that my situation isn’t the most dire: it’s still illegal to be queer in 70 countries; millions of queer people would face familial persecution, social exclusion and violence if they were to engage in the most basic of political action.
After a few months, I decided to examine these feelings of guilt in detail. Rather than focusing on what I couldn’t do and the actions I couldn’t take, I started with the things I can do.
What are my talents? I’m a professional singer and writer. I’ve been featured on the BBC, I’m a good public speaker and am media trained. From that starting point, I found ways to use those talents in ways that could benefit the queer community and our causes.
I offered to perform at fundraising events for LGSM and LGBT Switchboard, and wrote wrote articles for the LGBT Foundation and other organisations. I called these contributions my Personal Pride.
Small actions add up
Fifty years ago, the modern Pride movement was kick-started by rioting outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Some people threw things at the police. But others stood back and watched or just joined the crowd and chanted. Either way, they all contributed to the Stonewall uprising.
Others went away and got themselves organized. They launched gay magazines or started LGBTI rights groups, or just made an effort to try and help others in the LGBTI community.
This is something that I think we can all do. Are you a great listener? Volunteer for a LGBTI Helpline. Do you have carpentry experience? Offer to make/fix furniture for a LGBTI shelter.
However niche or superfluous you might feel your talent is, the contribution will be appreciated more than you could imagine.
So this Pride month (and throughout the year), show your Personal Pride. Do as much or as little as you can in your own sphere of influence.
Follow Jordan on Twitter at @jordycharles
Gay Star News is commemorating 2019 as the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots. Our Stonewall 50 Voices series will bring you 50 guest writers from all around the world. They will be discussing the past, present and future of our struggle for love and liberation.