Tom is a cis-gendered gay male (he/his/him) originally from New Zealand who has lived and worked in Finland for 7 years. In 2018 he started Helsinki Homoinvaasio to get gay guys out and socialising face to face. He is proudly into the fetish and kink world and is the current Mr Fetish Finland and has started Fetish Social nights for those new to and curious about kink. He’s sex positive, anti slut-shaming and an advocate for better sexual health including PrEP and U=U.
One thing I will always thank Finland for is being the country where I was able to properly discover and fetish and kink and to discover a community of likeminded guys who made me feel safe and welcome. They encouraged me not just to be into the sex side of things, but to take part in the wider community (which isn’t just about sex).
Finland is also the country where I first learned to appreciate and enjoy pride. During my teenage years in Auckland there was no Pride parade or celebrations. The old Hero parade (like pride) had ended in the late 1990s and Auckland Pride only began in the late 2000s. However growing up in an extremely gay friendly environment, I never felt attacked or that I needed a special celebration. Pride was too much. Pride was extra. I never had pride before, I didn’t need pride to tell me it’s ok to be me. I was being a selfish, entitled millennial.
The fetish scene is a minority within the minority that is the LGBITQ+ community. As I became involved in the fetish scene in Helsinki, I saw how people outside of it reacted to us, and how some of the guys in the scene felt that they could never be their true self for fear of how others might react. I realized that even if I didn’t think I needed pride, I should be supporting those in my community and after attending many prides, Wearing leather and with a banner demanding PrEP in Finland, I marched in the Helsinki pride parade in 2018 in front of thousands and thousands LGBTIQ+ people and our allies.
But it wasn’t always like this.
As we are about to once again go into the climax of our pride week, full of large companies and organizations showing their support to our community, it’s really important to take a look back at where we have come from, and how lucky we are, and remember those who fought for the progress in rights and recognition that we have gained so far.
I’m a bit of a history buff, and whenever I meet someone older, especially someone who was present in defining places or crucial moments of our struggle for rights, I love (and usually demand) to hear any story I can get out to them. There’s something different about reading history and hearing about it from someone who was there. Through their experiences, memories and observations, come some crazy stories of the LGBTIQ+ world before many of us were even alive, both the exciting and the sad. Many of these stories have changed my thoughts, perceptions and beliefs around the community, and some of these observations and bits from these stories relating to pride I want to share here, to put pride into perspective a bit.
Also, if you get the chance to meet one of these people I recommend you buy them a drink and just listen!
Pride is about celebrating, but it’s crucial, even now, to recognize those that led the fight (spoiler alert: it was not a group of cis-gendered, vanilla-inclined, white gay males). The Stonewall riots and related uprisings were joined eventually by a large part of the community. But the parts of our community that really kicked it off were the ones who couldn’t and didn’t hide that they were different. The trans-identifiers, the queers, the kinksters, people of colour. The ones that the community itself often discriminated against.
Pride as we now know it is a beautiful thing. A colorful celebration of everything that makes the whole LGBTIQ+ community so fucking fabulous. But Pride and parts of our community are in danger from both outside and inside our community. Last year during London Pride, so called ‘Feminists’ targeted the trans community while they marched. Earlier this year people in the fetish community have been accused of being just like child molesters, just because of the fetish clothing they wear. In Helsinki Pride picnic last year, people were caught asking “why are there so many trans people” and “why are they even here, is it trans pride?”, not just by those outside of the LGBTIQ+ community, but from those within it.
Trans-identifying people are at a pride because they are an important part of our vibrant and proud community. They have and still do fight for our community. They stood up, said “enough is enough” and the rest is the history of Stonewall, and has led us to Pride as we know it today.
So this Pride weekend, when you see any minority within our minority, appreciate, welcome and embrace (with consent if you plan to literally embrace) all the tribes within the LGBTIQ community.
Remember: We are only a fiery, formidable and fabulous force to contend with if we stand as a whole.