I met Julia Roberts at Pride.

August Bank Holiday 2007, I was offered E to the bassline of Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back by a man stacked enough to squeeze me to death with his right forearm, should I want to explore such kink. Instead he was sweet and offered to let me watch him wank off in the cubicles of Manchester Met University to the backdrop of Waltzers tumbling and crashing like ketamine seizures.

 

4 years ago as Manchester Pride drew to a close, I clenched my friend’s palm as we raised our drip trays to HIV solidarity. Weeks later I sent a volunteer application to George House Trust to give back what I can to my community still condemned for enjoying and exploring sex. A year later I took to the tarmac of Deansgate, with Nana the oldest queen in the Village leading the road to equality, mounted on a quad bike in full drag.

 

I love being part of the parade – as an Introvert it’s one of my many contradictions. I find solace in those smiles, the WKD-slurred cheers and the constant ripples of rainbow flags. I put aside my fears of rejection and judgment to take a firm stance against the discrimination, racism and bigotry that we MUST continue to challenge.

 

In contrast, it’s when the sun sets and I enter Canal street that I find myself exposed but this time it’s anxiety, and it’s the only part of me being pumped that weekend. Beta-blockers and Britney bitch fuel my course for the next 4 hours, as I swerve between tweaked nipples, Sunny Delight-tanned gods and Andrew Christian waistbands. I feel out of depth surrounded by chiseled 10s and far from my natural habitat of binge-watching Real Housewives of New York City swaddled in a duvet, eating Waitrose-essentials green olives en mass. In reality, I’m not designed to be Pride-body ready; poppers cause my Julia Robert’s forehead vain to look like my heads been clamped in a vice, and I can’t enter a dancefloor without there being enough room for hairography.

 

Without the volunteering opportunities and the confidence-uplifts that Manchester Pride has brought me over the past 10 years, I wouldn’t have transitioned from the stockroom to this stage. I still feel like my retail job title still rings true however, I still am a ‘Back of House Specialist’ but this time I’m exploring arses rather than serving Apples.

 

This year I’ll be at the forefront of safer sex provision at Manchester Pride. Beyond my inner turmoils, I’m proud to be representing LGBT Foundation as their Sexual Health Lead. I’m looking forward to hearing people’s stories of endorphin-fuelled nights of passion, how PrEP with alleviate their anxieties of exposure, and how many people with start new relationships and experience many firsts during their time at Pride.

 

Peter Bampton is the Sexual Health Lead at LGBT Foundation,

empowering LGBT people to reduce their risk of exposure whilst increasing pleasure and improving sexual wellbeing.

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