On 24th August 2018, Cardiff held the biggest pride march in Wales and, for the first time, I was part of it. For many, including me, Pride is a powerful way of coming to terms with our identity, and while we can’t march this year, it still feels vital to express ourselves however we can. Virtual Pride events aren’t very hard to come across online at the moment, and they’re a wonderful stopgap for now. With that being said, I doubt I’m the only one looking forward to a more traditional pride in the coming years.

The difficulty with discussing Pride is that it means something different, and something deeply personal, to every individual. For some it’s a chance to celebrate how far the LGBT+ community has come, and for others it’s a chance to protest how far we still have to go. But more than anything, what I gained from my first march was a sense of togetherness, and of community. It’s not often that LGBT+ people can look around and know that their sexuality is shared by a large chunk, if not a majority, of those who surround them. Up until my first march, that wasn’t something I’d been able to experience before, and it’s something which helped me come to terms with my identity fully.

Pride began as a protest, and to many people that’s what it remains. I’d argue that protest remains its most vital function until the LGBT+ community is completely accepted, and it’s often clear that we’ve still got a long way to go. A few months after my first march, a former Welsh rugby player called Gareth Thomas was the victim of a homophobic attack in Cardiff. I found myself walking down the street where it happened a few days later, and while I knew the feeling was irrational – it was a sunny day, I was surrounded by friends – I couldn’t help being anxious. At 6ft 3 inches, Gareth doesn’t exactly exude vulnerability, and rugby’s the closest thing we have to a source of national pride down here: if they’d take him on, what chance would I have?

Visibility is a key part of eradicating these feelings of smallness and vulnerability, and the publicity that Pride receives year after year is important in showing people that we should never be afraid of self-expression. Through its celebration of sexuality, Pride highlights something which is often invisible, and is therefore also a great way for people just discovering their identity to feel comfortable with who they are.

I don’t expect my experiences with Pride marches to be unique, but to me that’s one of their benefits – they let people experience the same extraordinary moment of community and visibility together, at the same time and in the same place. The internet has undoubtedly helped foster such community on a much larger scale, but there’s something magical about a physical gathering. Pride started as a protest, and in many ways it remains so. We should remember its history as a protest, even once the necessity of such protests has faded into history. But that wasn’t my first experience of Pride, and I doubt I’m alone in that, for me, it started as a celebration. Whatever Pride means to you, however, I’m sure you’ll agree that its safe return can’t come soon enough.