After nearly two years and three cancellations, Birmingham Pride is back, bigger and better than ever before. It is time to bask in a city filled with love. The city centre is one big party, celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in all its diversity and debauchery.
Rainbows have been appearing all over the city, in anticipation of this weekend’s festivities: New Street Station is resplendent in rainbow colours, from the ticket barriers to the giddying steps that lead down to Station Street; the trams declare their services ‘are for everyone’; and buses are stopping at signs decorated with every colour of the spectrum.
The party kicked off with a free community event of speeches and entertainment on a stage that wouldn’t look out of place a major music festival on the site of recently demolished wholesale markets. Saturday was opened with traditional words of pride, progress and solidarity in front of the council house and concluded with revels in the city’s southside district.
After over eight hundred days since the last Pride event, it was phenomenal to be back together.
“We will meet again,” as some old Queen said last year.
Back at that last event in 2019, my friends and I applauded the opening addresses then headed off to find a suitable vantage point to watch the parade.
As we shuffled along the packed streets, I spotted a handsome police officer, with dark brown eyes peeking from beneath the dome of his helmet.
“Excuse me,” I approached him, brandishing my camera, “but would you mind if I took a selfie with the hottest copper on the beat?”
“Sure,” grinned Officer Sexy, looking around. “Where is he?”
The raucous parade thunders through the city, with thousands of participants representing all LGBTQ+ tribes in their full debauchery and glory: Gay parents, with children riding on their shoulders or in buggies, stroll alongside drag queens and half-dressed stilt walkers; floats filled with spinning pole dancers follow representatives of the emergency services; leather clad clones march behind the military; same-sex ballroom couples are just one (quick-quick-slow) step behind Caribbean steeldrummers and bhangra beats; corporate companies, cashing in on the kudos, are represented alongside political parties and genuine civil rights campaigners.
I’m heartened that the most enthusiastic cheers of the parade tend to be reserved for the gay refugees, an unimaginably brave multi-cultural group who have fled everything they know to escape prejudice, persecution and in some countries the threat of imprisonment or even death.
Well, to be totally honest, there is one group represented in the parade that is ever so slightly more popular than the gay refugees and receives a louder cheer from the crowd… the fire service. Hey, we’re only human.
There is one particularly hot fireman I always lookout for. He is short, buff, with slick dark hair and a cute diastema (the noticeable gap between his two upper front teeth).
I once saw my favourite fireman doing community outreach in Birmingham city centre. The fire department were handing out leaflets and badges to passers-by and inviting people to pose for photos in the cabin of the fire engine.
I strolled over and shook his hand, “You were at Pride this summer, weren’t you?”
“Yes,” he replied, sounding surprised. “You remember me?”
“Of course, … I thought you were hot”
“Oh great, that’s all we need,” one of his colleagues sighed. “He’s full enough of himself as it is!”
Back at the parade, a group of burly men with ample body hair and a distinct lack of shirt buttons came into view.
A lad behind me turned to his girlfriend and asked, “Why are those men wearing mouse ears?”
“They are wearing bear ears,” I interjected. “They are bears.”
The girlfriend looked perplexed, “What are ‘Bears’?”
“If you are stocky, hairy and have a beard, you are a bear.”
The lad indicated his own hairy chest, “Would I be a bear?”
“No. You are too young… and slim,” I told him. “You would be a cub.”
This straight boy now had a whole new hitherto unknown gay identity… and seemed delighted.
I was suddenly aware of a presence at my shoulder. I glanced down to find a diminutive old woman trying to squeeze through the crowd. She scuttled around to the other side of me and started to elbow her way between myself and the guy stood on my right. Just as she managed to squeeze her head between us, a large pack of human pups, dressed in their rubber outfits, dog collars and masks, walked, crawled and scampered by.
The old lady tutted loudly and moaned, in a thick Brummie accent, “All this bother just to get to Primark!!!”
The stranger on my right and I grinned gleefully at each other, as she wandered away.
“Oh my God, that was straight out of Victoria Wood,” I laughed. “In fact, I’m not entirely sure that wasn’t Julie Walters!”
A few summers ago, my young work colleague Paige and her friends found themselves accidently part of Brighton Pride parade. They had been cruising the streets in their car, trying unsuccessfully to find a parking spot, when they inadvertently drove through a neglected security barrier and found themselves trapped.
There was nowhere for them to turn off and escape, so they had no choice but to keep driving along the parade route.
They had a group of fetish enthusiasts in front of them and a float full of dancing go-go boys directly behind. Paige and her girlfriend were mortified and just kept their heads down, trying not to make eye contact with the cheering crowds, but their flamboyant male friend threw back the sunroof and burst from the car like a jack-in-the-box, basking in the glory.
When they eventually reached the end of the route, the organisers were furious with them for illicitly entering the parade and demanded they pay the participation fee.
The usually mild-mannered Paige lost it, “We didn’t want to be in your fucking parade! We were only stuck there because someone left the gate open!!!”
After two colourful hours, the Birmingham parade trickled to an end. It was time to head to the gay village for the awaiting shenanigans… and to give my Pride T-shirt its annual outing.
My special T-shirt features a picture of a hand with index finger pointing to my left and declares, ‘THIS MAN… LIKES COCK.’ It goes down a storm with Pride revellers and has proven to be a real asset, giving me the excuse to approach the best-looking guys and cheekily ask, “Are you man enough for a photo?”
The first year I wore the ‘This Man Likes Cock’ T-shirt, I was clocked by a group of policemen.
One of the officers nodded in my direction, muttered something to his colleagues, then all four headed in my direction.
Oh no, I thought, surely, they’re not going to tell me to cover it up? This is Pride, anything goes! There are guys walking around with their arses hanging out of their chaps, my humble top can’t be causing offense.
“Excuse me sir,” said one of the offers, as he approached, “we couldn’t help but notice your shirt.”
“Could we have our photos taken with you?”
The next thing, all four of them were taking turns to pose next to me with the accusing finger pointing in their direction.
When it came to the turn of the fourth and final police officer to take position for the photo, his colleague pointed at him and commented, “By the way, just for the record, of the four of us… he actually does like it.”
They all giggled, and the officer stood next to me with his arm slung around my waist, nodded that it was true.
From then on it became my mission to have my photo taken wearing that T-shirt with as many official types as possible. I managed to get shots with security guards, vendors, barmen, bouncers, first aiders, some woman off Gogglebox, that fireman with the cute diastema and even got inadvertently ‘papped’ with the Mayor of the West Midlands.
At one point, I approached a strapping armed police officer, decked out in flak jacket and utility belt. I had my arm casually draped across my chest to hide the logan, which surprisingly worked, and he obliviously agreed to pose.
His colleague offered to do the honours with the camera, but just as he was about to take the photo he noticed the statement embossed on my clothing and went to point it out to my unaware victim. I subtly silenced him with my finger to my lips. The other police officer gave a conspiratorial smirk. Only once the photo was taken, did he gleefully draw his colleague’s attention to the wording.
The posse of armed police burst out laughing and gave me contact details to send the photo to, while my quarry performed a resigned facepalm.
The following day, I attempted the same trick on another armed cop, stood in front of an impressively armoured vehicle.
Before I could get close enough to ask for a photo, he shook his head, “No, no, no, I’m having my photo taken with THAT shirt!”
“But why?” I asked, innocently.
“Because the one you took yesterday is all over social media,” he replied. “They’ve even posted it on the West Midlands Police website!”
My mate Kliff was lucky enough to acquire free entry to Pride one year, by being in the right place at the right time and being offered free VIP tickets.
Kliff is an inimitable character. Although small of stature, he fills a room with his personality, howling with laughter, gasping in delight, bursting into song and launching himself excitedly into the air from a barstool whenever someone he knows walks in. He is one of the quirkiest people I have ever met. He is a constantly twitching mass of nervous energy, with a pair of glasses that never seem to sit straight on his face, like a kid that has just taken a tumble down a slide.
As I said, Kliff is short, but there is one part of his anatomy that is far from small. He is renowned for having one of the biggest cocks on the Birmingham gay scene (Now I’ve got your attention!). His pendulous appendage practically hangs to his knees. When he is stood naked in Boltz at Dare2Bare, people tend to shake his member rather than his hand. Well, it is a private members club.
Back at Pride, Kliff showed his newly acquired VIP ticket at the checkpoint and was admitted into the event but pulled aside for a random search. Security checked his bag then proceeded to pat down his clothing. When the guard reached Kliff’s inside leg, he encountered a potential lethal weapon.
“Excuse me sir,” the guard asked, tugging at the offending object though the trousers. “What is this?”
Kliff rose grandly to his full ‘action figure’ height and with resolute dignity declared, “That… is my penis!”
The security guard staggered back, horrified, muttering, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!”
Clearly in this instance, VIP should have stood for ‘Very Impressive Penis’.
Birmingham Pride 2021 is in full swing and there will be plenty of tales to tell of fun, friends, frolics and fornication to come, but for now… Let’s party with such passion that we bring this city to its knees.
It has been a phenomenal event so far. Everyone involved in its planning and execution should be very proud.