Marching with Pride

I came out as a lesbian in 2013, when I was 17 and it took quite a while for me to get there. Looking back, I thought the first time I felt something for a girl was when I was 13. I immediately buried those feelings and forgot about them. Recently though, I remember spending a lot of time with a girl in primary school for a few weeks. We didn’t really have anything in common but liked each other a lot. We fell out over something I can’t quite remember, made up but then never really spoke again. Years later, through Instagram, I saw that she’s gay too.

I attended my first pride in 2015 in South Korea. Since I’m from the Netherlands it might seem like a strange location for my first pride, especially considering pride is very big in Amsterdam and the Netherlands is very accepting. My friends from secondary school attended pride together before I had come out and the event is seen as a place to celebrate. Queer people and allies come together to have a big party day and I wasn’t someone who enjoyed masses of people, alcohol and all-out parties. When I had come out I longed to go to pride to find a connection with other LGBTQ+ people. I read about boots with LGBTQ+ literature and all week they’d screen a different queer-themed film. I lived rather far away from Amsterdam however, so I couldn’t just pop by and leave again and so I never went.

Worries After Coming Out

Another reason why I didn’t attend after I had come out was because I wasn’t quite ready to. After I’d come out I felt incredible because I felt like I was capable of loving, whereas before I thought I wasn’t. I also thought I was asexual for a while, but turns out I was looking at the wrong gender. It didn’t feel right to use the word lesbian for a while, I was afraid to hold hands with another girl in public and I worried that my football teammates might think I was looking at them when we showered, though I wasn’t.

The latter worry led me to officially come out by telling them in the changing room in the middle of a game. I had discussed it with our trainer before and he announced that I wanted to tell them something as I didn’t think I’d be able to do it otherwise. I was staring into nothing as I was struggling to find the words. When I finally got it out everyone was so supportive and I felt a little embarrassed that I had made such a big thing out of it.

A year later it turned out it was quite good I’d done that coming out. A teammate had stopped showering with us and eventually, then-‘she’ told me that he really felt like a boy and wasn’t sure how to tell his parents. He confided in me and slowly, he got to a point where his parents accepted him and he could get started on puberty blockers. It was still a really long process and there was a long waiting list to even be seen. Three years later he finished secondary school and started a degree where he introduced himself as he; it was a fresh start.

Anti-Gay Protests

I moved away in 2015 but visited South Korea before heading off to university because my best friend was currently studying there and if I didn’t I wouldn’t see her for a full year, which seemed too long. I spend a full month there and saw most touristic attractions while also living as if I were a local, as I stayed with my friend. It was quite coincidental, but the month I was there was pride month and as we did things around and about we often passed Seoul Plaza where, we found out, pride would take place in two weeks.

This came to our attention because every time we passed Seoul Plaza we ran into a group of protestors which were holding signs with slogans like “Gay marriage is not a legal right,” “Gay supporters out,” and “OUT, OUT.” People were using megaphones, they made music and the police ensured they were able to protest safely. Walking past these protests made me feel cold inside every time.

Gay Pride

By the time pride was supposed to take place my friend and I had gone out to do and see stuff nearly every day and she wanted to have a day off but I really wanted to go to pride. I felt like if I was ever going to go it would be now because I had her with her. I felt safe with her, accepted and thankfully she agreed. It was incredibly strange to arrive at pride in South Korea. From our stop at the underground all the way until the entrance of pride, protestors stood lined up with signs protesting against gay rights. The earlier protests we had walked past that month were nothing and the pride area was surrounded by a large green fence to keep the protesters out. Police were standing all around the green fence too.

As soon as we entered pride however, everything was peaceful. We arrived early so there weren’t many people about yet, which helped me acclimatise and feel less overwhelmed. I wanted to take pictures so I had to get a press pass, bought myself a rainbow lint and then we roamed the different boots.

Seoul Plaza Pride

There were quite a few boots highlighting the history and things that still had to change to reach equality. There were some signs outlining what the LGBTQ+ community hoped to achieve by 2020 but as I can’t read Korean, I didn’t know what those were.

Marching with Pride

Marching with Pride

Music Battle

One of the things that really struck me and which I remember clearly is that the protestors on the outside were playing several drums as well as using microphones to sing and sometimes there were full bands. Some were chanting against gay rights whereas in other cases they simply tried to be as loud as possible in an attempt to disrupt our celebration. It felt so surreal to me, coming from a place where it’s pretty much normal to be queer.

Seoul Plaza Pride Protests 2015

But we were louder!

In response, however, our side started playing music too and slowly throughout the day it seemed to become a battle. Who was going to be louder? Inside the fence though, you couldn’t really hear the protestors anymore and there was something quite amazing about that. It wasn’t nice to see the protestors when walking past them on the outside but on the inside, it felt like love was winning. We weren’t shouting hateful things or chanting against human rights, we were playing music to celebrate.

Everyone smiled at each other on the inside. It was as if we were all friends even though we’d never met before or even spoke the same language in my case. My friend and I went to a drawing booth and had a picture of us drawn. We said we were friends but she must have misunderstood us because she ended up drawing us as lovers, ha!

Pride March

By the time it was time for the pride march the entire square was full of people and it was impossible to still move until the people in front of us started moving. The march started in the square and finished there, followed by a party, though the entire march was a party. There were a few different van’s that people were dancing on as it drove ahead/amongst us, each themed differently. There was a lesbian one, for example.

Marching with Pride

Marching with Pride

More Protestors

Strikingly again, police were lined up along most of the way even though the march took an hour and went around the city. They left a very big gap between the protestors and us. The police seemed to be working with a set amount of meters and it made me feel rather safe. Walking this felt really powerful to me because it felt like we were very actively walking for our rights and making a statement against these protestors.

And the march goes on

Marching with Pride

Party

Everyone was dancing by the time we returned to Seoul Plaza. The different van’s had gathered and the music seemed to be blasting even louder. I was quite surprised and happy to see that one of the people on these van’s was wearing a rope harness! The party continued back inside the green fence and a big screen and podium had been set up for bands to come and play. We stayed for a little bit but went to get pizza and cake after. It’s rather hot in South Korea and it had been a long exciting day with many new impressions. It had felt really magical to me, like coming home and standing for what I believe in alongside the others. It felt like being embraced and embracing.

On our way out, the protests seemed to have grown even bigger but I don’t think anyone inside the celebrations still cared or was very aware. The police had pushed them all a lot further back. Whereas before they literally stood at a meter away from you, they were now held back on the opposite side of the street.

The years after

I still felt uncomfortable telling people that I was gay because it felt like I was rejecting people as if I owed men something simply for being a woman. Every single man who shows an interest and then hears I’m gay immediately denies that they were into me. In both these instances, it felt like I was being wrong for who I was.

When I got to university I put the drawing of my friend and me on my bullet board alongside the rainbow lint I had bought at pride. In my first week, I had to tell two boys on separate occasions that I’m gay and I really struggled with it. It still felt like I owed men something, somehow, simply for being a woman and every single man who shows an interest in me always denies it as soon as I tell them I’m a lesbian.

I no longer struggle as much with this now. However, my sexuality is still dismissed by men, pretty much a weekly basis. This happens both in real life and online and it seems to come from the idea that women can’t be lesbians in the eyes of men, the fact they think they’re special and will change me or straight up don’t care and want to have sex with me regardless. I will write a post about this one day.

Queer Revolution

Attending pride in South Korea showed me how other countries aren’t as far ahead as we might be in the west and even while we have come a far way over here, there are many things that aren’t right yet. A lot of members in our community still face discrimination and laws that make their lives a lot more difficult. We are still fighting for equality and while the Supreme Court in the US just backed protections for LGBT workers, the UK is dropping the gender self-identifying plans.

While I face my own struggles as a lesbian, I’m aware that other members of the LGBTQ+ community struggle with things that are specific to their orientation. One of the things that have felt most powerful about being a part of the queer community is the solidarity amongst us. I may not be able to fully understand someone else’s struggle but I will support them just like they supported me and educate myself along the way. The only way we can make a difference is by standing together; every single one of us, whether queer or straight. I hope that we will keep on standing and fighting together until everyone is equal and that includes other minority groups like black people. We need to keep standing up. It’s time change happens.

“When that day comes I’ll roll and leap and shout in Seoul Plaza and if I’m still stifled by overflowing joy I will raise a rainbow flag and lead the parade with it.”

Marching with Pride

Xx ML

Related posts:

My Coming Out Story
The Importance of LGBTQ Literature
Why do you need contraception? You’re a lesbian

27 Replies to “Marching with Pride”

  1. PurpleSole

    What a fantastic experience to be part of, even if it was tainted slightly by those that don’t see LGBTQ as anything other than equal. You can forget that culture differs vastly around the world in terms of acceptance. I’m glad that you are feeling more comfortable being who you are, even if others try to challenge it.

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      I think it was good in a way to see that and it made the feeling of solidarity all the stronger. If I could I’d fly around the world and partake all the different marches!

      Thank you PS, I appreciate your support!

      Reply
  2. missy

    This was a really interesting post and it was good to learn more about your journey to get to where you are today. I have learnt so much from the young LGBTQ people I engage with and so I could recognize the feelings you describe in terms of your fear, but also your excitement and relief, at coming out. I hope that things continue to change and progress and as you say, that can only happen by us standing together.

    Reply
  3. Marie Rebelle

    Thank you for sharing this, ML. I think it’s appalling what men say to you, that they think they can ‘fix’ you. It’s totally disrespectful and just horrifying. I agree with you on this: “The only way we can make a difference is by standing together; every single one of us. I hope that we will keep on standing and fighting together until everyone is equal and that includes other minority groups like black people. We need to keep standing up. It’s time change happens.”
    And as the B in LGBTQ+, I will stand right there with you!
    ~ Marie

    Reply
  4. a mental switch

    The most impressive thing from the pictures and your description is the positive and joyful atmosphere. When I lived in a bigger city we had regular pride parades and it was the same. I am glad you are happy and proud to say that you are a lesbian.

    Concerning those men trying to “straighten” you up…I wonder how many straight women say “mmh… I’ll better get the Satisfyer out than taking this guy home” 😉

    Reply
  5. MrsK

    “I still felt uncomfortable telling people that I was gay because it felt like I was rejecting people as if I owed men something simply for being a woman. ”
    This is so loud! Not just for gay women but women everywhere. Many feel like this and I can’t imagine how it must feel knowing that even if you did owe them something (which you don’t) it would be against your own sense of self to give it.
    Thanks or sharing your journey. I hope it continues to inspires others to come out. And gives those who aren’t gay a little bit if understanding about the internal battle that many LGBTQ+ fight.
    🙂

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      It’s strange isn’t it, that I never realised that other women (not just lesbians – because I have lesbian friends who experience the same too) feel that but it makes a lot of sense… in this world, atm still. Thank you for your comment MrsK <3

      Reply
  6. May More

    wow what an amazing trip in total and event that must have been for a young person. The photos are very striking – and really like the final image you have posted.
    I have been thinking about young people coming out as gay or “bi” and it is obvious this had a very big impact on you and your world – and I got to wondering if how big an impact it does have has anything to do with how a person has been brought up. I say this because my daughter came out as “Bi” at 16 and it just seemed like another day to her except she had told me. I have asked her about it since and she said discovering she was Bi did not feel like a big issue to her as she knew it wouldn’t matter to me as long as she was happy.
    What do you think?
    May x

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      Yes, it sure was! I’m very fortunate to have had it. I took like 250 pictures that day plus maybe 20 videos haha. Went a bit overboard!

      Mhm, I don’t know. I knew my parents would be accepting and not have a problem with it. That was very clear to me and my dad actively told me when I was like 9 that he’d love it if I were different lol (not that I had to be) but he was enthusing about me possibly having a goth phrase or whatever lol. So I don’t think that’s the reason why in my case. I’m glad it wasn’t a big thing at all to your daughter though and that you were always open about it being okay! x

      Reply
  7. sass c.

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I appreciate how you expressed a feeling of almost being wrong for who you were because it’s something I’ve also felt. I’m not out as bi in my vanilla life except for with my lover. I’m grateful that he’s accepting of it, but I know I won’t be met with the same acceptance amongst my family and friends.

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      Thank you <3
      I'm sorry to hear that you won't be met with acceptance by family and friends. It must be hard having to hide this part of your identity that is so important to who you are. I'm glad your lover is supportive and I hope that for the other people in your surrounding things might change eventually

      Reply
  8. Modesty Ablaze (@ablazingmodesty)

    Wonderful post … very touching to read of your journey … and totally agree that standing together is the only way we can all make a difference for positive change.
    Just wish that, in all things, everyone could understand and completely accept that we are all different and all entitled to be who we want to be and live our lives the way we wish to.
    Xxx – K

    Reply
  9. David Proctor

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and journey in discovering and claiming yourself as you.I was born in 1950 and yet I was raised by my parents as accepting all people and knowing a number of persons who were gay or lesbian. In college 1969 one of my roommates came out to me as his being gay. I went with him to see his mother to provide support as he told her.
    It was a very moving positive experience. All the issues you identify were present back then and continue. So I have continued to be an active advocate and humane relations educator throughout my life. We need to continue to support one another, actively listen to the other, and especially actively listen within for our truth. I raised my 3 daughters ( now 29, 31, 33) who actively speak up, speak out, and work to make differences for positive change.
    I feel so sad that being and becoming one’s self “entitled to be who we want to be and live our lives the way we wish to” (Modesty Ablaze) is not yet normative.
    Thank you for reminding me how fresh, exhilarating , and pain-filled this issue continues to be. I go back to Marlo Thomas’ album “Free to Be You and Me” as wonderful theme music for this journey.

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      Thank you for sharing your experience too. It probably shouldn’t be surprising to hear? But I am that it already was seen normal back then and I think that’s very hopeful for the future! I’m so glad that you’re an active advocate and educator. We need this to bring along change.

      Reply
  10. DeviantSuccubus

    This was both fun and informative to read, thank you so much for sharing. I never had a coming out although I am not straight. I just never felt like I owed it to anyone to know what gender or sex I am interested in, unless they were in a sexual or romantic situation with me. I am really not sure why that is, maybe because I was in the goth subculture where everyone is accepting. I remember my first pride parades in the 1990s fondly, and I also was in sit-ins for LGBTQ+ rights. What I find most striking about your post is that you describe a country that is not Western and where the anti-LGBTQ+ movement is strong. I sometimes feel like we all focus on small things that are about discomfort, instead of trying to help those in countries where people’s existences are under threat because of their sexual orientations and gender identities. Together we shall stand: with kindness in our hearts and cookies on our trays 😀

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      Thank you Devie. I think it’s really good you never had that coming out or felt the need to come out for anyone. I think that’s where we all should be, in an ideal world. Reading your comment I feel like I wish I could have seen the pride parades in the 1990s. I think you make a really good observation. Cookies and kindness it is! Overcomes everything right!

      Reply
  11. collaredmichael

    I loved this post. It’s nice to know a little more about you. I have some very good lesbian friends. A couple I find very attractive—when I first met them years ago, I considered asking them out. Then I found out their sexuality and turned that part of my mind off. Nothing’s worse than foisting yourself on people who don’t want you. I still find them attractive. But I have no desire for them.
    It’s immature to think you can “love” a person straight.
    Guys will eventually get this (I hope).

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      Thank you Michael <3

      I know right? I find a couple of girls very attractive but when I know they're straight I don't like... go after them lol.

      Reply
  12. LordRaven

    Pride festivals can look so different from one place to another even here is the states. I am fortunate to be in a city where it is at least accepted for the most part.
    As for owing men something and men thinking they are special enough to change you, that is lame on their part. You know who you are, As long as you feel comfortable with you then let you pride flag fly high. I understand that in a totally different way, being Bi I am either ashamed to admit I am gay or some version of that. No people I just like both, get over it an step off.

    Reply
    • MLSlavePuppet Post author

      It’s so interesting, right? It makes perfect sense of course, every country is different so pride parades will be different everywhere. I’m glad that you’re in an accepting city. I’ve heard that so often from people who identify as bi. I don’t understand why people can’t simply be understanding and respectful about our orientations. And we don’t have to be put in boxes. Seems to be just a tool of power they like to use

      Reply
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