28The first time I dared to go was back in 2015. For a number of years before that I had had the desire pulling me in the event’s direction. I remember that on my way to school, every day I would see the event’s poster for the year it got moved to the autumn. Back then I didn’t actually even consider myself part of the LGBTI community, but I’d always believed in the need for equal treatment for all people. I didn’t find the things happening at Pride to be something excessive, on the contrary – a gathering of normal, positive-minded people. This idea that I had was affirmed with my first time attending it.

One year had just passed since I broke up with my first serious boyfriend and I had just got over him. I was ready to meet new people because until that moment, I wasn’t part of Sofia’s gay “scene” in any way. I knew one lesbian friend that was going and the plan was for me to join her group. I arrived by metro at Sofia University and as I emerged on the surface in front of the Monument to the Soviet Army, I instantly recognised a familiar face. It was an acquaintance, who was there to support her friends.

From then on, my expectations were exceeded in the hundreds. I found the people I was supposed to meet. Among them was a boy, whom I later fell in love with and who became the second person to reciprocate my feelings. In the end, not much came out of this and a few months later we were no longer friends on Facebook. What really struck me in a positive way was the overwhelming support of straight friends and acquaintances at Pride.

As I was marching along Tsar Osvoboditel boulevard, right next to the Russian Church I spotted schoolmates from high school, who were taking photos and as soon as they noticed me, they started waving at me. I felt such a strong surge of confidence, acceptance and freedom that I could be who I was and people would understand. I hadn’t planned to be the centre of attention, even though I wasn’t hiding from the cameras either, but just before the march could come to an end, one acquaintance called me to the moving platform. It couldn’t have been a coincidence that at that exact same moment another schoolmate was recording from the pavement and caught me on film, as I had just climbed up and was dancing and enjoying myself.

Since then I have never missed Pride in Sofia – this year I even volunteered in many activities before the main event, as well as during it. The first reason to attend Pride I would like to emphasise as important should be internal to the community itself. This is the best occasion for people to gather and get to know each other even if indirectly at first. It’s useful for a person to meet with his own kind, so as to feel less alone, less strange but more as a part of something bigger, uniting individuals. That’s also why it is so important for society to see us as the normal human beings we are, who are having fun, but also making it clear that we are equal in dignity to them, therefore we deserve the same rights as them.

In being united there is great power, similar to our national motto “Unity makes strength” and that’s the only way we can achieve something – by joining forces to become one. That’s why I encourage anyone, who doesn’t feel indifferent to their own fate or that of others to join next year, in order to continue the trend of rising attendance and to show the sceptics we’re here and that in being unusual lies our charm, which makes the world a more colourful and diverse place.

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