It’s always a bittersweet moment when Ponsonby’s Pride Parade rolls around. On the one hand, you get to spend your evening surrounded by colour, joy, and unconditional love, but on the other, you have it in the back of your mind that Pride month is drawing to a close, and soon the rainbow flags that brighten the city will be taken down for another year.
As we made our way down Ponsonby Road, making sure we didn’t miss a single one of the outrageously effervescent floats, it was hard to believe that just four years ago, same-sex marriage was illegal in our country. To be honest, it was hard to believe that there could ever have been a soul in New Zealand that wanted it to be illegal. From over an hour before the start of the parade, people started to line the barricades, donning rainbows on their faces and glitter in their hair. I have never seen so much diversity in one place before, with all races, ages, genders, and sexual orientations being beautifully represented. It was a heartwarming sight, one that categorically proved that love transcends our differences, and can instead show us how we are all fundamentally the same.
What’s potentially even more incredible than being in a place that encompasses and embraces the multiplicity of our country, is the number of organisations and businesses willing to get involved. Of course there are those who explicitly support and advertise the LGBTQI+ cause, such as ANZ Bank with their “GAYTMs” and their #HoldOnTight campaign that brought out tears from those with even the hardest of hearts. Additionally, though, amongst the organisations formed for the sole purposes of promoting LGBTQI+ rights, there were also names that were less expected. Joining the ranks of the “proud” this year was Countdown supermarket, handing out chocolates and water in abundance, weighing down our bags in such a way that we could never complain. There were Baptist churches, university representatives, electricity companies… All there in their hundreds, showing their support for their LGTBQI+ customers and employees.
While the event itself was important, providing a safe space for people from all walks of life to celebrate their identity, what was different about the parade was that it let people know that there are places in which they know they will be safe. As Pride draws to a close, it might feel as though the number of opportunities you have to be openly yourself are slipping away as well, but the parade proves that this is not the case. It shows that you can be yourself at the supermarket, at the bank, at church, within your chosen political party, and even in entire suburbs such as Ponsonby. Pride Parade is more than just an evening, it seeps from February into March, and from March through to December.
Every year that we celebrate Pride month, we are getting that little bit closer to a tolerant New Zealand, but discrimination will continue to exist. February may be over, the flags may be gone, but the need for us to keep fighting is not.