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I have a new mantra: Question everything.

It's not that I have been an uncurious person up until now, by any means. But an exchange I overheard last week has prompted a new release of inquisitiveness that's caused me to investigate everything – including my own complacency. A little boy and his mom were hurrying along through my local park and she was trying to make him understand why it was they had had to leave the playground.

"It's because of time," she said, looking at her watch and biting her lip.

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The little boy let go of his mother's hand, threw his own up in the air in despair and with a voice full of anguish cried, "But what's time?!"

Now, of course, he just meant he didn't understand the concept of time, and I pity his poor harried mother for having to try and break it down for him as they rushed through the baking-hot city en route to some other appointment. But he prompted me to stand back from concepts I hear every day and ask myself, what do they actually mean?

Like, for instance, Happy Pride!

I've been hearing that a lot of late, as I have traversed America on my travels. Last week, I was in Boston (Oh, you're leaving Tuesday? You're going to miss Pride!), Saratoga (What a shame, you just missed Pride!) and Chicago (Pride Week is beginning Sunday! Why are you leaving?). I finished off the week at a writers' retreat in Vermont, where I was happy to find no pride. By the end of the week, I will have returned to New York (The Pride Parade is on Saturday! Are you coming?) but will arrive in London on Friday to – guess what? – host an awards ceremony that launches Pride weekend in that capital.

So can you guess what my question of today is? Yes, what is pride?

Well, Pride with a capital P means the annual celebration where LGBQT people are heralded, lauded, indulged or ignored, depending on where you stand in the equality spectrum. It used to be called Gay Pride, but it felt more, to me, like a gay version of Halloween, although not so scary. Everyone dressed up in costumes, or undressed to costumes they would never dream of wearing the rest of the year and marched around in character and ended up getting very drunk and usually sleeping with someone inappropriate. It was a lot of fun, but personally I didn't really connect it to what my idea of being proud was all about. I am proud of who I am, I always have been. Shame is something I have never entertained and indeed exhort others to stamp it out, no matter how ingrained in them it has become.

But it seemed that pride was being confused with dressing up, allowing an alter ego to take your place for the day, someone more loud and brash and slutty than you would ever dare, or want, to be. Now don't get me wrong, I would never slut-shame. I could not be a more sex-positive person. I just get a little hung up on semantics sometimes.

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So again, what is Pride?

Lately, we have all rightly become more cognizant of the other members of the LGBQT acronym, and so Gay Pride became LGBQT Pride, and now it is simply Pride. And while a conspiracy theorist might see some latent homo- and trans-phobia emerging from that convenient heteronormative name change, I actually like it. Because the world has changed, and perhaps it has changed so hugely and so quickly that, like time, we are all struggling to catch up with it.

You see, now Pride isn't just about a section of our society needing a parade to dress up and be the Halloween version of itself, safe in the knowledge that nobody will gay-bash or name-call. There is still a party for sure, there is still dressing up and I would wager a large fortune there is still much sleeping with inappropriate people. But now Pride is not just saying, "We are like this, deal with it," but "Look how far we have come. Look what we have achieved. Look how much we have helped the rest of you to forget your ingrained bigotry, and to embrace difference and equality and, above all, love."

Pride isn't just for the LGBTQ community, it's for everyone. We should all take Pride in the fact that we have created a society that is careening toward a time in near history where equality finally will be achieved.

So I wish you all a very happy Pride. But remember that old adage: Pride comes before a fall. Don't be complacent, don't assume someone else will speak up. Question everything. Because equality, by its very nature, can only exist when we all have it.

Alan Cumming is an actor and a writer. He is the author of the novel Tommy's Tale and the autobiography Not My Father's Son.

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