Celebrating Pride Month: A Personal Journey of Resilience, Solidarity, and Love by Dai Thomas
As we celebrate Pride Month 2023, we are honoured to feature a guest blog by Dai Thomas, an associate for Tai Pawb. In this deeply personal piece, Dai shares his story of a traumatic event at Pride 2022 in Oslo (linked) where there was a terrorist attack mass shooting and two people tragically lost their lives and 22 more were injured. Read why Dai is eagerly looking forward to this year’s Pride, filled with hope, healing, and a renewed sense of purpose.
I’ll be celebrating Pride Month in 2023 for a number of reasons, and I’d like to share why although it’s important in any year, for me in 2023 there’s an additional and very personal one. But I’ll start with some general reasons.
Pride Month has its roots in the Stonewall Uprising of June 1969, which is widely considered to have been the beginnings of what is, by today, the LGBTQIA+ rights movement, and the month pays homage to that history and the bravery of those who fought at that time for the rights and visibility of our community. We should never forget about those roots of protest as we celebrate Pride Month, but we also need to honour each of the diverse identities within our community and the joy that community can bring.
Pride Month serves as a reminder that everyone should be able to embrace their true selves without fear or discrimination. You only have to look around the world to see how many countries have progressed in terms of LGBTQIA+ rights, whilst others are regressing at a frightening pace. We should celebrate the former and stand up against the latter.
So as we remember, honour and celebrate, we are also provided with a platform for advocacy, raising awareness about ongoing issues such as discrimination, violence, unequal treatment and a powerful reminder that the fight for equality and justice is far from over.
Pride Month provides an opportunity to educate the broader public in helping to dispel stereotypes and to foster empathy and understanding. Through public events, campaigns, and discussions, Pride Month promotes dialogue and encourages individuals to become allies in our continuing struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights. It also reminds us all that the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights is not confined to specific regions. Solidarity is crucial in creating change on a broader scale.
So there’s the general reasons, all hugely important but information on Pride Month that can be found online already in so many blogs and articles. But every community is made up of individuals, each with their own story, and so here’s mine, the personal part of why Pride Month this year means so much to me.
I’ll be attending three Prides in June and July 2023 – Pride Cymru, Pride Caerffili and Oslo Pride. And it’s that last one that makes Pride Month this year so important.
I have close friends in Oslo and have been many times for many reasons – weekend visits, birthdays, a wedding and previous Prides; it’s a beautiful, welcoming city. But unfortunately, Pride 2022 turned out to be very different. It was my first time back there seeing my friends since the month before the pandemic hit and I was so pleased to be seeing them again and was looking forward to the trip.
London Pub and the César Bar & Café are either side of a wide triangular junction of a number of Oslo streets. There’s a tram stop, other cafes, a hotel, Oslo District Court; it’s a typical city street in many ways.
On Friday, 24th June 2022, my friends and I were out catching up, and had been for hours as it was the night before the Pride Saturday, before the huge parade and main event. We had walked past London Pub but didn’t go in as we saw that it was very full, so we walked across the road to the César Bar & Café.
At around 1am we decided to make our way home and so were standing near the tram stop waiting for a taxi. Opposite us, people were eating and drinking in the outside area of the Per på Hjørnet restaurant and pub. We suddenly heard shouting then a noise like firecrackers. Just some Pride fun we thought, till one of my friends shouted in shock that it was a gun.
I’m sure the next part took only seconds, but I can still remember the lengthy (and frankly ridiculous) internal conversation I had, about how it couldn’t possibly be a gun, because guns don’t sound like that in film and on television, guns sound much louder and deeper than the cracks and bangs I could hear; these had to be small fireworks. I can remember feeling slightly detached from reality for what felt like a long time, before a survival instinct took over and had my brain to ask why on earth was I thinking about sound effects and not actually running away.
So we ran down a side street and up some steps to try and put distance and corners between us and what was happening, the noises echoing from all directions due to the sounds bouncing off the surrounding buildings. It’s a chilling sensation, wondering if you’ll feel something hit your back, but I can still remember feeling oddly detached, even as I ran.
Of course, we were so incredibly lucky, but many weren’t. Two dead and many more injured, and their families were changed forever.
My partner was at home in Wales and in bed, and given the time of night, most of my family and friends would have been in bed too. But three who were still awake saw my garbled online update, that I and my friends were OK, and their contact and support meant the world to me. As of course did the support of the friends I was with in Oslo, on that night and for the rest of the weekend. Saturday was a blurry day of random tears, hugely needed phone calls with my partner and lots of alcohol.
I flew home on the Monday, drove home from Heathrow, and then burst into tears when I drove across the lane and finally saw the garage doors and the back of the house. I couldn’t look my partner in the eyes when I got inside for fear of breaking down completely. But I was home.
I’ll end with a moment from that Sunday in Oslo. We went back to that same spot, we knew we had to; by then the street was covered in flowers and rainbow flags and there were so many tears from everyone there, me included. It was a shared moment of acknowledging both shock and grief, but also a hugely important shared moment of solidarity.
This is the photo I took of London Pub that Sunday, from behind the police cordon.
Happy Pride and bullet holes.
So that’s why I’ll be celebrating Pride Month this year, even more than usual, and encouraging others to do the same.
Because despite the kind of hatred that led to that night, despite all the struggles, we have to remember and keep believing that love wins, that love always wins.