Benjamin Dean on What Pride Means To Him
The message of love and acceptance at the heart of Benjamin Dean's Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow ensured that it became one of our very favourite Children's Books of the Month. In this exclusive and very personal piece, Benjamin discusses what Pride means to him and why it is such a vitally important celebration.
When I was growing up, it sometimes felt like I was an alien with three heads and six arms. Although I was lucky enough to have a great circle of friends and a mum who loved and supported me no matter what, I still felt a little alone – like I was the only one like me, always just on the outside and looking in. I knew I was gay before I could form the words to articulate it. But, when I finally pieced it all together in my head, the mystery of why I felt so alone wasn’t miraculously solved. I would look around and see my friends, my family, my peers looking back at me. But, although they were supportive and understanding, it sometimes felt like I had nobody to talk to who could truly understand my perspective. We need to find ourselves in other people to feel fully connected to the world around us, so we know that we’re not the only ones out there. But, for the longest time, I couldn’t find an important part of my identity in other people, and it left me with questions that I couldn’t answer.
When Twitter came along, I started to learn and connect more with my community, finally finding people who were like me in one way or another. I spent hours online scrolling timelines and dashboards, virtually inserting myself into new worlds that enhanced the one I was currently living in, where I still had no gay friends to speak of. It was because of social media that I chose to go to university in a bigger city – Manchester, my first home away from home – where I knew I’d find what I was looking for. But it was also where I learned about LGBTQ+ Pride for the first time.
My first Pride was Birmingham in 2012, the closest Pride event to my hometown. I’d turned 18 years old months before, but I was yet to go to an LGBTQ+ – or at least an LBGTQ+ friendly – venue. Although I’d started to connect with other people from the community closer to home, I was desperate to cannonball into the deep end, and Pride gave me the perfect opportunity to do just that.
I’ll never forget the feeling rushing through my body when I arrived in Birmingham, when I unpacked at my hotel, and then finally when I turned a corner and saw thousands of people ahead of me. In the strangest way, even though I’d never been to Birmingham before, it felt like I’d found a home full of family I’d yet to meet. I looked around me and, for maybe the first time, I didn’t feel alone – I felt surrounded by people who were living proof that I was far from it.
Ever since then, I’ve adored Pride events up and down the country and around the world. Each year, it allows me to celebrate my identity and community alongside my chosen family, from the streets in Manchester, to Black Pride in London. And every year I’m reminded of the kid growing up who thought he was an alien with three heads and six arms because he couldn’t see himself reflected in others.
I wrote my debut book, Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow, in honour of that kid. It was only natural that it included elements of my identity and life, as well as the thrill of a Pride adventure. It was even more poignant to me as I wrote the majority of it during a global pandemic that cancelled Prides around the world. But, this year, I hope to be at Pride once more, and I can’t wait to have that feeling back again.
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