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Time Out headed to the Soho vigil for Orlando on Monday June 13. While we were there we spotted ‘Spider-Man’ actor Andrew Garfield in the crowd. The next day we decided to contact him, along with a number of other well-known LGBT+ and ally Londoners, to ask them why they think this year’s Pride celebrations are more important than ever. Most contributors sent a couple of sentences, but Garfield took the time to write this moving essay about the power of the event. We felt compelled to publish it in full:
‘In the wake of Orlando this is a matter of life and death, and Pride is a celebration of the miracle of life. A celebration of a community who have had to fight and are still fighting for their basic human rights. A community of lovers who are outrageously forced to continually say: “See me. See me deeper. Accept me. No, don’t just accept me – love me. Celebrate my presence on this earth. Welcome me, don’t just tolerate me. See me as I am and love me as I am: your brother, your sister.” This community is a vital blessing to our diverse world.
It’s also an opportunity to transform our feelings and longing into generative human action. To stand, talk, protest, march, sing, dance and be generally fabulous and fierce as fuck in the face of forces designed to make us full of terror. It’s an act of viscerally unifying as a people, in a world and culture that is constantly, insidiously (and sometimes horrifically overtly) trying to separate us and make us irrationally petrified of each other. Trying to keep us numb. Trying to make us forget the fact that we all desperately need each other and that we are all desperately needed.
I think of the stillness, silence, streaming tears, hands squeezing hands, arms wrapped around bodies in postures of care and true love that happened on Old Compton Street on Monday night, followed by the London Gay Men’s Choir singing:
“When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all,
I’m on your side when times get tough
And pain is all around,
Like a bridge over trouble water,
I will lay me down.”
I found myself with my closest friends, temporarily soothed in our grief for our brothers and sisters in Orlando. Soothed only by a mass of humanity given the sacred space to pour out their heartbreak, anger and love together in action. Reassured: some faith in humanity restored that this kind of ritual is still possible when it’s more longed for and needed than ever.
In a modern age when a Twitter post seems to count for activism, my experience is that there is nothing quite as healing and life affirming as hands on hands, tears with tears, flesh with flesh, sorrow with sorrow. Love is a verb.
It feels like the time, more than ever, to stand with love, to fight fiercely for love, to build bridges across these imaginary divides that are trying to keep us segregated in fear of what is “other” than us.
Pride is an opportunity for the deep ritual that we hardly ever get in these modern times – and, maybe most importantly, to dance like the freaks we all are. To dance the joy, the pain, the rage, the love. There are no rules in this dance but to be your true self. And celebrate everyone else being who the fuck they are too!
We can show there is nothing to fear, and kiss each other all over London.’