Ginger Pride March: 19 things only redheads will understand

On a sunny day in April this year, Melbourne's Federation Square was awash with a sea of flame ... hair that is, when Australia's first ever Ginger Pride March was hosted.

The event was a surprise success. But are people really buying the idea that gingers are misunderstood?

I must declare an interest – as a copper top myself, I was intrigued how much red-headedness defined people's identities.

I discovered that some solid communities are forming around gingers and their admirers – and they're having enviable fun.

Better off red

Ginger Pride marches and rallies happen in the UK, the US, the Netherlands – and they're taking Australia by storm. Organisers of 2016's Ginger Pride expected 300-400 to turn up and waited in anticipation with orange balloons and bunting to see if anyone would.

Questions abound about drapes and carpet / collar and cuffs.

Unexpectedly, over 1000 copper tops created a sea swell of strawberry blondes, marching through Melbourne with signs that read: 'Nobody puts ginger in the corner'; 'Drop Red Gorgeous' and 'Day of the Walking Red.'

In addition to an excuse for some puntastic wordplay, the day was about celebration of diversity. The organisers, Buderim (who make ginger beer and give it away on the day) were so overwhelmed by the response, they're already planning for  2017's march in April to be bigger, better and redder.

Jacqui Price, spokesperson for Buderim, told me it started with an online hub for gingers, Ginger Net, and grew into an offline movement after they hosted 'Australia's Hottest Ginger' Competition.

"We wanted the ginger revolution to encompass a celebration of everything ginger, from ginger haired people, ginger pets and comedians and of course ginger recipes and flavours," she says. 

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A rose-tinted world

Is there really a point in having a Ginger Pride beyond a Ginger Beer company marketing itself and promoting its product under the guise of 'anti bullying and celebrating diversity'?

Price says: "The sheer turn-out at this year's Ginger Pride Rally proves that gingers feel the need to stand together against bullying and prejudice and celebrate their uniqueness. We had redheads and gingers flying in from all over the country. We also had strong messaging around the rally as a celebration, so it wasn't about victimisation, it was about having fun."

The triumph over bullying is still an important message: "When we first ran Australia's Hottest Ginger competition, over 80 per cent of the 2300 entrants mentioned getting bullied about their hair colour at different points in their life. In fact, it encouraged many to enter, to portray being ginger as a positive trait."

Growing up ginger

Mark Olsen, 28, took his four-year-old red-headed son to Ginger Pride. "I remember growing up as a ranga was quite embarrassing at times – especially as a teenager," Olsen says. "I thought: the younger he starts celebrating it, the better! Kids at school made jokes about me being a carrot ... it all sounds quite petty, but as a kid it's humiliating. After school though, that all went away for me. In fact a lot of girls I dated said the red hair is what made them notice me, so I can't complain about that."

Steven Harley, 34, found it similarly cathartic: "I got used to being the punchline of a lot of jokes ever since I was a boy. It's still something that happens today. I don't let it get to me anymore, and just roll with the jokes rather than taking offence."

Finding his ginger brethren was an uplifting experience: "When I arrived I wasn't exactly sure where to go, but as soon as I approached Federation Square there were swarms of red-heads preparing to march, holding banners and signs, it was hilarious. Kind of what I imagine the end of the City-2-Surf to be like if I was into exercise at all."

The Ranga Revolution

The red-haired community has also united through the brilliantly named R.A.N.G.A (Red and Nearly Ginger Association.) Made famous by a TEDx talk by Joel Cohen, the online forum is designed to "further the cause of all individuals whose MC1R receptor is set in it's default position, therefore producing pheomelanin rather than eumelanin. That's what's going on at the genetic level to express red hair."

They've come up with inventions such as the Ranga Man superhero, comeback lines for rangas on the receiving end of teasing insults ("Yep, I've got ginger genes, but you managed to slip into the gene pool while the lifeguard wasn't watching!") and events such as redhead only parties which build solidarity and raise money for Borneo Orangutan Survival.

Given that some scientists in recent years have been theorising that the ginger gene could become extinct due to climate change, these ginger communities (less than two per cent of the population) are a defining marker of our generation.

In celebration, I asked Ginger Net users, redheads and those who love them to help compile a list:

19 things only gingers would understand:

1. Sun cream is your oxygen. Some reported getting sunburnt when the moon is out. Another claimed to drink sunscreen for internal coverage. Factor 50 in winter is not uncommon.

2. People presume you have a fiery temper. We absolutely do not! It's actually really rude to suggest we do!  

3. People are obsessed with your pubes. Questions abound about drapes and carpet / collar and cuffs.

4. Old ladies tell you how lovely you hair is.

5. You get called 'Blue' ironically.

6. Spotting a fellow ginger stranger and sharing that silent hello with a glance, like a secret society.

7. Greeting a fellow ginger with the traditional and formal exchange: 'flame on'. 

8. People reassure you that you're 'beautiful just the way you are' with your red hair, as if you're insecure.

9. Playing join the dots with your freckles, or watch them become one massive freckle in Summer.

10. Strangers come up and touch your hair without asking.

11. People think you're fake: "Is that your real colour?"

12. Laughing at your friends who have to dye their grey hair.

13. Too scared to dye your hair as a kid because your mum said it'd turn out green.

14. Not being able to have any cool designs shaved into your head as a teenager because it's too light and won't show up properly.

15. Bees mistake your hair for flowers and follow you around.

16. Having friends say "thank GOD they're not a ranga!" when your child is born, as if you're not standing right there.

17. Not appreciating the uniqueness of your hair till later in life.

18. "Gee, you're alright – for a redhead".

19. Going redder than anyone else when you're embarrassed. Your hair colour leaks into your cheeks.

Can you add to the list? Share your experience being ginger in the comments section.

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