This past weekend was officially my 3rd time experiencing Gay Pride in Toronto. And by far... this year was the best yet.
There once was a time when I would have told you that I didn't understand the point of "Gay Pride". At that time, I also I would have told you that the Pride parade and all of it's trappings was merely a spectacle that reinforced negative stereotypes and justified the opinions of people who wrongly assumed that all gay people were men in drag, and dressed-up like the Village People, and all lesbians were axe-toting lumberjacks who ride motor cycles and bare their breasts.
It kind of shames me to admit that. Because not only have I missed out on years of celebrations, but I also spent way too much time spouting off that rhetoric to people who would casually ask me if I was going to Pride. God knows, I had my own reasons for not wanting to go. The whole experience can be intimidating when you're insecure about the way you look and if you're not comfortable with your own identity. Hell... people can talk themselves out of anything with fear or insecurities. But the older I've gotten, and the more comfortable I am in my own skin, the more I've realized the reasons behind Pride.
Yeah, it is a spectacle, and it's political, and yeah, for many it's an excuse to drink your face off and party til you're physically unable to continue. But beyond that, it's also a demonstration of one of the most basic human needs: to feel loved, and accepted. And when you live your life being made to feel like you're an anomaly, or an evil pariah by birthright... finding an event like Pride, where hundreds of thousands of people are just like you, can be a very uplifting, spiritually edifying occasion. And when I say "just like you"... I'm generalizing of course, but there's something to be said for mingling/fraternizing/being among people who you might not identify with outwardly and celebrating their diversity right along with your own. 'Cause chances are, they've got some similarly painful experiences of being ostracized or discriminated against for just being who they are - just like you. That... is humbling... and endearing. And you'd be surprised just how many freaks, like-minded freak-loving people, and individuals of every colour of the rainbow (obvious tie-in there) can convene peacefully and celebrate, and abide without violence or incident. That in itself makes a great statement of solidarity and enlightenment - to me anyway.
At any rate, we had a really great time. Friday night, Ted, Rob, and Steve had their official "Girls Nite Out". It's a Pride Friday tradition for like 8 years running now. And every year I drop Ted off and pick him up at some ungodly hour like 3 or 4am. This year I almost tagged along, but I had other stuff to do. But needless to say, I waited up and brought the boys with me to pick up Ted at 3am. There was an accident on the Gardiner Expressway sooo... it took us well over an hour to get home. blah!
Saturday was supposed to be a cleaning/laundry day, but since we didn't get up til close to 11:30, we did S.F.A. 'cause we also had plans to go to the Dyke March with our friend Summer and her friends from Ottawa, then drive to Waterloo to meet up with Ted's sister Ali who was in town for a seminar for work. Time just got away from us so we didn't end-up going to the march. We just went to Waterloo, and had a really nice visit. Then booted-it back to Toronto to meet up with Summer and her friends, and our friends Rob & Jay, for the Indigo Girls concert. -'Turns out, Summer's friend Dawn reads my blog. That was a cool surprise! (Hi Dawn!)- Ted and I knew nothing about the Indigo Girls music before the concert and we were just blown away by the whole experience. It was truly beautiful. Their lyrics are soooo poetic and poignant to being gay in today's society. I think it's only the second time I've ever been moved to tears at a live concert. Once again, I was given the opportunity to just be with my Ted, and be myself, in an atmosphere that was so warm and accepting. The energy of that concert was so heartfelt and deep... you could just feel that everyone there was hanging off their every word at times. I also have to mention, that we really enjoyed the sign-language interpreter that performed the entire concert in the corner of the stage... He emoted every lyric with such passionate movement, it was just beautiful. Also... at the risk of sounding trite... there was this inflatable, flailing-armed tube-man attached to the roof of a building beside the stage that moved in the breeze, adding his own joyful little dance to the festivities. It was cute and celebratory without being a distraction. So, two new Indigo Girls fans walked out of that concert on Saturday. I've made two attempts to find some of their CD's to no avail, but I will. Mark my words.
Before I forget; let me also state that this is the most expensive-looking Pride event I've ever been to. They must've had one helluva budget considering all the stages, security, lighting, free concerts, decorations, and graphic projections on buildings etc. Pretty amazing. Not to mention, it could just be my perception, but I've never seen so many people EVERYWHERE. Who knows? I haven't seen an official count yet. (and upon a quick Google search it would seem they don't take a count, so there you go - I'll just say there were a BILLION-TRILLION people there and you have to take my word for it.)
Anyhoo... after the concert we waited in line on Church street to get into this little restaurant. Everybody was a little tired, and the place was LOUD so the conversations were a little difficult. But towards the time we were getting ready to leave, doesn't this 19 year old cutie named Eric show up at our table with a pitcher of beer and a stack of glasses. Yeah, he was just looking for a perch to drink, but he was very intelligent and funny. In a very short span of time, we learned that he lives near the African Lion Safari, and has his very own pet Llama named Chop Chop. He even had a picture of himself with Chop Chop on his cell phone. He entertained us with a couple of stories and then we bailed on him. At which point, he literally took off out the window with his pitcher of beer. (not one of us took him up on his offer to have some.) He was so adorable though, he probably would've had an audience for a great deal longer had it been just the four drooling men at the table. Anyhow. Good times that night. (didn't get to bed til 3am incidentally)
Sunday morning we were up at 9:30am to make it downtown to hook-up with our friend Arran at the home of one of his friends. There was a rather large group of us there for a hung-over, hazed brunch of sorts. We had Mimosa's (or as I like to call them: Homo-sas) and quiche, and pizza, and all sorts of oven-heated treats. We'd stopped at a bakery beforehand so we brought fresh danish, and Cinnamon bagels, and an apple strudel. Mmmm... food. It was a good group of people too. We just kind of hung-out and then wandered down to Yonge Street to watch the parade. The weather was great, but y'see, I'm a pasty ol' Irish boy. Direct sunlight makes us melt. Luckily SPF 30 does the trick for me and even though I spent 2+ hours in the broiling solar flare conditions, I suffered nay any burns. It was enjoyable. I like being able to see the names of the organizations as they pass by. Groups like PFLAG really warm my heart, so I make sure to cheer extra loud when those proud parents walk by. They deserve it.
I know I'm skipping a lot of detail about the parade right now, but as with any event like that, you really do kinda hafta be there to experience it... the wall of people... throngs of beautiful and freaky people, normal people, families, kids, the elderly... the smiles... the polite and respectful nature of the whole thing... it is something to be proud of.
...AFTER the parade, we hit a shitty little pub called the Village Green. Shitty little pub... no further description required, trust me. But then we made our way over to the Wellesley Stage (same place we saw Indigo Girls) to see Lady Ms Keir (formerly of Deee Lite). That was a fonky, fonky, fonky good time. Ted was like a kid in a candy store, because Deee Lite has always been one of his favourite bands.
That inflatable, flailing-armed tube-man was still there, and you should've seen him boogie to Lady Kier man! Psychedelica! Arran and all of his friends accompanied us, but during the concert we kinda got separated, so it was just me, Ted, Arran and Alex (Arran's room mate). Arran was smashed, wrecked, and plastered. "We" were simply high. Yeah... it was a fun time.
Sadly, just as Rob and Jay found us (with much inaudible cell-phone communication - ie: yelling without knowing whether I was being heard) we had to go to pick up the dogs from Ted's sister Mel's place. They stayed there for a doggie sleepover Saturday afternoon til Sunday evening.
Phew... I know I'm leaving a whole lot out... but I've just gotta post this now, before it's too late to be relevant. If you get the chance though... I really do recommend Pride... whether you're gay, bi, straight, or whatever. It's really not about your sexuality... it's about being who you are and accepting others for who they are. And like I said before. That is something to be proud of.