I had the best Pride in years this year and I've got Chick-fil-A to thank for it.

Just days before the parade, with my energy levels low and my skepticism high, I watched long lines of homophobes snake through malls and wrap around buildings across the US to support the fast-food chain’s anti-gay stance — and I started to cry.

I didn’t mean to cry. I didn’t expect to cry. I’m not usually that sensitive. But the turnout took me by surprise.

Cars filled parking lots. Thousands of people stood in line for hours to make their opposition to gay people perfectly clear. To rally around Chick-fil-A’s president, his biblical, anti-gay views, and his right to put his money where his mouth is and fund powerful lobby groups seeking to squash gay rights.

Of course, Dan Cathy has every right to express his beliefs and to pour money, even millions, into whatever homophobic groups he chooses. But it got me thinking about the corporate Pride parade entries here that I have railed against for so long.

For years I have complained that the corporate presence at Pride dilutes our culture and turns what should be a celebration of us into a string of rolling billboards and ads. Last year I felt like we were conspicuously absent from our own party, eclipsed by empty consumerism and our own dwindling show of force, of presence, of gayness in all our glittery, sexy glory.

This year, I took my place along the route feeling more charitable toward the corporate parade entries. I still prefer community floats and I would still urge participants to express themselves more fully and outrageously. But for the first time in years, I also appreciated the corporate floats.

There went TD, my bank, with a sizeable contingent of about 100 people, all marching happily.

There went Telus and its gay spin-off, Caya, with its own sizeable contingent of marchers and a float of sexy, nearly naked bodies gyrating, our style.

There went CIBC and Jazz airline, not only marching but cosponsoring Canada’s Pride at Work network.

There went the first-ever member of the Canucks to march in the Vancouver Pride parade, Manny Malhotra, marching side by side with our local gay hockey club, The Cutting Edges, and You Can Play cofounder Patrick Burke.

There went a bunch of businesses and corporations whose leaders have made their own choices about who and what to support.

Of course, their choice is profitable — they just ran an ad by half a million people. Of course it’s self-serving. But it’s still a choice, and it’s a choice I much prefer to Chick-fil-A’s choice.

It’s a far cry from giving homophobes a flag around which to rally.

I should tell Cathy that he and his followers renewed a considerable portion of my previously jaded faith in Pride. I’m sure he’ll be pleased. I know I am. I’m even kind of grateful.

With my cynicism challenged and my feet back in, I decided to actively seek out more Pride. The parade pained me less than usual, but I still feel like our celebration has shifted over the years to be less about us and more about outreach, albeit potentially valuable and supportive outreach.

So I went to the Vancouver Men’s Chorus’s Big Gay Sing at the Queer Arts Festival, and it was fabulous. It was us. Here was a celebration of our culture, in all its campy, funny, loving, sexy glory.

Here was my Pride parade.

From a touching and bittersweet tribute to the closeted and deeply conflicted Whitney Houston, to rousing choruses from The Sound of Music, the Village People, Madonna, Lady Gaga and more, we sang to ourselves, for ourselves, as ourselves — in Pride.

We honoured the evening’s most glittery costumes and rang in our annual holiday in style — in community.

And just when I thought I’d call it a successful night, I dropped by Miss Pussy Liquor’s all-gender Unicorn Party and found another remarkable queer space of openness, love and the freedom to truly be ourselves.

Best Pride in years. And I didn’t even have to look that hard. I just had to reach for community and appreciate some of the gestures and celebrations already in full swing all around me.
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