I watch two Black men in love take communion at Pride from the packed edge of a street opposite the Trafalgar Square stage. Sepia pink sweets that have been thrown into the audience are unwrapped and become currencies melting in their mouths. This intimate act of personal sustenance is shared through a kiss. It is so tender that I am stopped in my tracks. Even amid the swirl of bodies jostling for space, they take their time, while Kat Graham gives a thunderous performance on stage, as rainbow flags bob around us. A bearded drag queen in blindingly bright garb cannot resist the seductive flash of a camera, nor the cameraman enthusiastically throwing compliments to stow away for later.
Top: members of Bluf – the Breeches and Leather Uniform Fanclub. Above left: rainbow flag, T-shirt and pants – Pride must-haves. Above right: two revellers join in the fun
I want to take a photograph of the pair of them. I want to capture the exchange of breath, their foreheads resting against each other in solidarity, their limbs conversing in quiet language. Instead, I am clutching half a cinnamon danish which somehow feels trite in the moment. I am annoyed with myself. I do this more often than I would care to admit, inadvertently have my hands full with half of things when they should be free to capture moments that sear themselves into my consciousness. I calculate whether I can take my eyes off them for a few seconds. They are still wrapped up in their sweetness. I decide that I can. I stuff the danish back inside the crumpled paper bag in my handbag. I reach for my phone for an opportunity to discreetly take a shot. They are new suns with revellers oscillating around them in joyous abandonment. One slender, wiry, sporting an orange mohawk, shades perched on his head. The other is stockier, in a purple tie-dye shirt, with a softness to his face that belies an outwardly tough exterior. They walk past me, moving through openings in the crowds towards other moments of intimacy.
Top left: crowds gather. Top right: Adam and Willhiams pucker up. Above left: showing some attitude. Above right: rainbows and tatts
Later, I hop on to a ledge that’s already full of bodies to watch brightly coloured floats carrying people and booming sound systems pass by. I make space for Jordan, a 25-year-old from Canada. His pale skin is flushed, his body imbued with the electricity that is rippling through the crowds. He is wearing sparkly silver heels, a white shirt and black fishnet stockings. His choppy fringe gives him a youthful quality. He is beautifully androgynous. An intricate, neon-glitter face painting of flowers adorns the edges of his blue eyes. He clutches a few plump tangerines in his right hand, offering me one by way of greeting. I ask him how he is finding the celebrations. “Where I’m from, we don’t have something like this. It’s just amazing to see people being themselves, as well as the acceptance on display. It means a lot. Growing up, I couldn’t express myself in this way.” We smile as a teenage girl in a celestial white costume wielding wings and a sign saying “Angel of queerness” passes us, flanked by a friend, pausing momentarily when one wing folds in on itself.
We are happy to sweat, feel our legs ache, bolstered by the solidarity surrounding us. We both feel we have been given something powerful, yet unknowable, to dissect later after a transformative day. Afterwards, on my way home, as I walk towards Tottenham Court Road tube station, more revellers spill from side streets clutching flags, badges, whistles, banners; items of affinity that will be small mirages in the grip of the city by the next morning. I think of a collapsed, rainbow-spattered wing ascending, of the Black men making lovers’ magic in spaces that collect their silhouettes momentarily like receipts. I think of Jordan dancing under a shower of bright matter. I think of standing not just on ledges but on the edge of a precipice, where snapshots of Pride seep into my bones.
Top: a colourful scene at Piccadilly Circus. Above left: Dykes on Bikes motorcycle club. Above right: Elliott Douglas of Deaf Rainbow UK