It was a hot day in central London, and as hundreds of hard working supporters traveled from all over the country for a special charity event at The Savoy Hotel, I was staring at a plump, middle-aged man wearing a gold lamé body stocking, wondering: Why? I wasn't questioning his choice of heels over flats (the man had stamina), I was asking myself: What's the point of Gay Pride?
Today 50,000 gay men and women had descended on central London, closing roads and making it all but impossible for anyone to get to where they were going on time.
In the 1970s there was clearly a need to speak out for gay rights. Police beatings, victimisation and discrimination on a huge scale prompted New York's Stonewall Riots and the birth of a movement.
Not too long ago, a homosexual could be sacked from his job and be powerless to seek redress, refused service in a shop, food in restaurant and a position in the armed forces. Even in the early 90s my partner and I were refused a room in a hotel and there was nothing we could do about it.
We've come a long way since then. Gay marriage has been legalised, the age of consent lowered and people are no longer arrested for kissing on the street. Why then should thousands of gay people still feel the need to march through London, closing many of the roads and literally stopping traffic
Some argue that the images splashed around the media do more harm than good for gay rights. Though there are lots of regular guys marching in gay pride showing support for equality at work for example, the TV and newspapers only ever focus on the most outrageous participants of the march (better pictures), so it's easy to see why some people from less cosmopolitan areas might think all gay men like dancing in the street wearing outrageous costumes. Stupid, I know, but for many people the images from gay pride are the only time they knowing stare gay culture in the face. They don't realise that, just like the straight community, there are all sorts of people with different tastes, lifestyles and images.
Though many of those marching were just there to have a good time, Gay Pride still does serve an important political and social need. Living in a large cosmopolitan city and working in the entertainment industry can give a skewed impression of reality. Homophobia is still a big problem. Last year, Carl Paladino, candidate for governor of New York State won huge support from the Republican Tea Party movement when said he didn't want children “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality was acceptable”, and that gay marriage was “disgusting”. More worryingly, just this year the editor of popular Ugandan magazine 'Rolling Stone' said, “We want the government to hang people who promote homosexuality.” Seven years ago in Egypt a seventeen year old university student received a 17 year prison sentence including two years hard labor, for posting a personal profile on a gay dating site. Just a few weeks ago in Warsaw, Polish ultra-nationalists threw firecrackers and shouted homophobic abuse at the country's Gay Pride parade.
Right now 76 nations still ban gay sex and seven of them have laws punishing gay sex with the death penalty. Perhaps some of the unfortunate people living in those countries might come across images from London's Gay Pride and be given some hope that there are places in the world were people can be free to express themselves without fear of violence or arrest. Though what they'd make of the gold lamé body stocking, is anybody's guess.
Oh, and if you are worried about gay people having too many rights, blame straight people – they're the ones having gay babies.