My first Pride was like twenty flags hanging from twenty windows: sort of insignificant, sort of monumentalDaniel Hilton for Varsity

There are flags hanging from almost every window at Peile Hall in Newnham College. By itself, not a thrilling statistic, but let me now provide the context: earlier this term, our lovely JCR President sent out an email warning us about the impending Flag Ban, to be implemented across college in the new academic year. It took about three seconds for flags to be seen all around college, from Palestinian flags, to handmade declarations for democracy, to banners attributed to Shrek (an important message for all). But overwhelmingly, and perhaps predictably, we see Pride flags, billowing in the wind in every shade of queer. I say billowing, but it’s more like blustering; my upstairs neighbour and close friend are repeatedly jump-scared by their own lesbian flag when it whips against their window at three in the morning. (Gives homophobia a true edge of fear.)

This wave of pride came just in time for Pride Month. Jesus Green 2021 was the first Pride I’d been to in my life, and it was nothing like I’d expected. It wasn’t London Pride, with its grand march and Heartstopper floats and general vivacity; it wasn’t the Mardi Gras-esque party I saw on the news. It was far more unimpressive, quiet, and heart-wrenchingly lovely than I could’ve imagined. Like twenty flags hanging from twenty windows: sort of insignificant, sort of monumental.

“Cambridge Pride was unimpressive, quiet, and heart-wrenchingly lovely”

I have to admit that, in concept, Pride wasn’t always very appealing to me. Okay, that’s a polite way of saying that a few years ago, I probably would have found it cringe. I realised I was queer when I was fifteen and for a good few years stayed resolutely perched just outside the proverbial closet. Until I went to university, I thought I was exempt from the culture despite being a member of the community: ‘neutrally queer’. I wasn’t very eager to wave a flag around, much less use my bisexuality to retaliate against college’s social politics. To a teenage me, if the world was a colouring book, the hues of queerness lay outside of the designated areas, like unruly stains on the blank outer corners.

I probably don’t have to spell out the internalised homophobia behind this way of thinking – but outside of the lines as I am, I am still, at 21, pretty terrified of making a Mess. And isn’t Pride just an embodiment of that Mess? Mess, by the way, isn’t dirty socks on my bedroom floor, or the 157 unopened emails in my inbox, or even the piping hot tea I got served this morning at brunch with an old friend (the dramatic kind, not the Earl Grey I ordered). Mess is the kind of thing you can’t mop up or wave away with a smile. Self-doubt. Self-hatred. Envy. Defensiveness. A ‘bestiary of affects’, as Sianne Ngai (author of Ugly Feelings) would put it, filled with rats and possums that gnaw at our confidence and ability to place ourselves in the world. That kind of Mess feels like it belongs within the safe pages of the Blackbirds Zine, not on display in the middle of Jesus Green.

But have any of you been following the new series of Doctor Who? A bit of a segue maybe, but bear with me. To be honest, I’m not the biggest Whovian, unlike my flag-bearing upstairs neighbour. But one episode, ‘Rogue’, has taken over the world (okay, Tumblr) with the appearance of Broadway actor and voice of Frozen’s Kristoff, Jonathan Groff, as Ncuti Gatwa’s very pretty and very male love interest. Spoiler alert: they kiss!

“I thought I was exempt from the culture despite being a member of the community: ‘neutrally queer’”

As my lovely (crazed) friends have been reminding me again and again, it is not the first gay kiss that has appeared in a Doctor Who episode; Eccleston and Barrowman locked lips in 2005. But ‘Rogue’ features an explicit romance, the promise of a true slow burn – a love story for the ages. And as much as I would’ve loved to see this storyline grace the silver screen as I was growing up, I can’t help but feel Ncuti is the perfect person to queer up the show just in time for Pride 2024. His portrayal of the Doctor exudes a comfort in the world that can only be achieved through an endurance of discomfort: poignant and powerful without being overstated.

True pride is watching Gatwa in the very first episode, dancing at the club in a tank top and a Scottish kilt, without a care in the world, like nobody’s watching, even though everyone is. Mark’s intolerant neighbour in the incredible film Pride (set in the mid-1980s) calls Pride Marches ‘deviant parties’; a phrase I think the current gay scene would eat up. Our generation of queers are all about taking these depictions of vulgarity in our stride, and throwing it back at the world with all the confidence of Troye Sivan in extensions and a white slip dress, or of Chappell Roan’s chapless ass at New York’s Gov Ball (look it up, trust me). Serving c*nt is the new way to reclaim our prescribed deviance; and what better way to do that than with what is essentially a big ass party?


Mountain View

The end of Glitterbomb and the importance of a rubbish club night

Maybe it’s deeper than that. Maybe there are conflicts and experiences and nuances that this attitude does not touch. But in June, the month of Pride, despite its rich and moving history, we’re not required to think about any of that: instead, we drink, we dance, we deck ourselves out in glitter (and immediately regret it)… we have fun. I cried at my first Pride back in 2021, overwhelmed by the number of families with young children happily picnicking as the celebrations went on around them. Sure, maybe it’ll happen again this year, but ultimately, it’ll be one bittersweet moment in the middle of a great day. I’ll wave my flag, sip my wine, take in the vivid colours, and try very hard not to obsess over gay time travellers in Regency dress.