I was warned. Did I take heed? Yes! I planned and had been looking forward to Madrid Pride (or ‘Orgullo’ as it is known locally) for a year and was expecting a world class event. I thank the universe that the event surpassed my expectation.
I’ve made a tradition of travelling to a European Pride every year – for me it’s the perfect weekend get-away: energy-packed, fun filled, party and celebration-driven, LGBT celebration – not to mention being a fantastic opportunity for a city-break discovery. Every country puts their cultural stamp on the event; because they encourage extreme behaviours, all you expect from their cultural norms are magnified – not to mention the hidden treasures that nobody reports…
I’ve got to start with the men. No whispers form friends and social networking buddies prepared me for that. The festival attracts a hoard of gym-toned clubbing men all proudly showing off some of the most muscle and ass-hugging clothes possible! If you turned your head every time you saw a sexy man you’d twist your head off its hinges. Luckily, I’ve never been a man-cruiser or an oogler – I acknowledge when a man looks good and leave it there or make that one of the drivers for striking up laid back conversation. Bloody good thing as travelling with my fella – I’d have been in deep shit having to learn new ways to control my frustration. As it goes I was able to quickly adjust to the fact that 8 or 10 of the men in the city for the weekend were gay and ridiculously sexy. I also counter-balanced it by adding the notion that 2 of them were me and my fella and kept a cool calm. Yes I managed to make all the apparent phoarness wash over me…
Like any holiday, regardless of the culture, you get out of it what you put in and what you like – whether it be chilled, tourist driven, party-hard, social, beach, drinking-oriented, sex-driven ones to name but a few drivers. Madrid has plenty of choice with them all – the super-club scene parties were bangin the drum and I lost some of my travelling companions to the likes of SupermarXe, Infinitio, WE Party, also the leather-fetish inspired IntoTheTank. Instead I stuck to the party bars – that was right up my street – all hail Liquid & Why Not? – sing out loud, video driven, pop, dance and commercial RnB tunes and videos – all soaked up with men singing at the top of their voices, re-living video moves and…well all the things that gay men do in party bars…ahem. I danced my willy off every night and found it so funny.
Breakfast on these weekend trips are a right-off, so I’m not even going to try and pretend I had any – lunch always started off with a 2pm-ish stroll to the gay district, Chueca, which was packed with cafes, bars, clubs, restaurants and clothes shops, all focused on gay life. It was rammed and buzzing with excitement, horn, hunger & thirst and it was always nice to start the day being adventurous with the Spanish and international cuisine, also people watching, socialising and laughing with fellow Prideans! After breaking up the day with shopping, a trip to a park, site-seeing or taking a siesta, we’d hit the gay area again for dinner at around 11pm followed by our foray into the bars and clubs that provided all night pleasures. Chueca is the bomb!
Pride day blew my head off. Gran Via (the main street through the centre of the capital), became completely dedicated to the event. People of all sexualities, ages, genders and nationalities, flocked the street dressed in skimpy outfits, pride merchandise, tanking themselves up ready for the parade. We rushed to the mid-point and decided to put down root and see the whole thing. Well. I never. Think Notting Hill Carnival X2. Yes 1.5 million people with every float or group dedicated to a celebration of homosexuality (or LGBT). Amazing! The parade was made up of two sections – the front contained political groups (mostly championing gay rights and equal marriage) each with their own synchronised drummers. Then followed the floats, each representing the super-clubs LGBT organisations – packed with semi-naked, muscle men and curvy women, house music booming, on-foot followers to the front and back strutting their stuff; each collective dancing & whooping up the crowd. People on the pavements went totally nuts each time a lively or sexy float passed. I was shocked that it started at 6pm – the time the Notting Hill Carnival would normally start winding down! The parade ended at 11pm. 5 hours of off-the-wall street partying! What a ting!
I’ve got to mention the water-dousing. I did hear whispers, which I tenaciously brushed off saying: I’m not into that. Little did I know I had not choice. Imagine dancing hard in the street, enjoying yourself, when someone just throws a bucket of water over you. Yes I kid you not – the apartments along Gran via had hoards of people partying on the balconies, drinking & filling buckets of water. At opportune moments they would throw it onto the crowd, dousing 20-30 people head-on. But get this: when people got hit, they’d go nuts, dancing harder in the sun enjoying the refreshing water, and carrying on until the next bucket came on them! At first I was standing there VEX telling my friends: if they ever do that to me, I’ma track whoever did it and go boof dem up! But as I loosened up and got into the vibe and got hit a few times I compromised by brushing it off but finding a comfortable spot where there wasn’t anyone on the apartment balconies. Little did I know that some of the floats also carried water guns…
Don’t laugh about my attempt at being a tourist – one of my things is I can’t stand still art. Or museums. Or historical things. My compromise in recent years has been spending one day per holiday doing a tourist bus ride where I could take it all in, cursory-style, with lots of pointing and fast-paced narration. Well who told me to sit on top of the bus in the sun after a night out? My fella said I was out cold within 2 mins and slept the whole of the 1 hour 40 mins tour, roasting it the sun, head back, nodding. I was I Boyfriend-Jail for a few hours after that, I tell you. Well I tried! And I do recommend doing it! Well he does. Madrid houses a lot of history and beautiful architecture, Royal Family lineage, parks & museums to name but a few. If you like that sort of thing you must include it in your itinerary. Just don’t blarstid call me to do it with you!
It my first day back and I’m in reflecting mood, as ever. Pride events always give me tingles when I think about the people who have fought hard to pave the way for me to assert my life as a Black gay man and be challenge-free. I also take my hat off to those LGBT activists who are still pushing the envelope. The conservatives amongst us cannot see why Pride celebrations contain such extreme behaviour about sexuality and I can best sum it up by stating it’s a space where most of the LGBT cultural practices, political standpoints, internal barriers and the things that go on in the dark in gay life are brought to the fore-front and where gay people say to the wider-community: we’re different and our life is great just as we are – we don’t live by YOUR expectations! There will always be those who turn their noses up however there will be those who are mesmerised and intrigued; where that engagement with the celebration triggers them to think about treating someone they know or meet with a different mind-set, also to try and see things from another perspective. Talking and partying loudly is a great way to encourage that cultural change – not to mention a fantastic way to just enjoy yourself for a day regardless of your sexuality – one day for the year when you do not have to ‘manage’ your behaviour, who you are, what you do or what you like – to feel totally liberated and be proud to be you. My annual Pride celebration humbles me. And helps me to see a bit more of the world each time!
SpiritedStrength = daily life driven by: • heart • realness • liberation • purpose • learning • happiness