Toronto
3 min

All in your head

Pride Toronto is in the midst of massive consultations for 2011. Christmas is coming, with New Year’s Eve hot on its heels. Next week is the anniversary of my sister’s passing, and this weekend is my other sister’s yearly caroling party, complete with songbooks, instruments and silly actions to accompany the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

All of this has led to a lot of thinking about tradition.

Take Pride, for example. We will never get to a place where everyone is happy with Pride Toronto, for lots of reasons. There are way too many conflicting interests at stake, too many ways to look at what it should be, who should come, who should not come.

The basic fact is that everyone comes to Pride with their mental baggage in tow. Who has a good time, who has a blast, who hates every minute — so much of that depends on where we are at in our heads, and often, it has nothing at all to do with the stuff coming out at the Pride Toronto consultations. I’m not saying Pride Toronto’s planning is a waste of time, just that an event that big, involving that many people, will never make all of us 100 percent happy, and maybe we all need to acknowledge what we personally bring to the whole affair.

Pride is the only tradition in my life that comes without expectations I worry I can’t fulfill. My Pride is based on my identity, which doesn’t fundamentally change, doesn’t cause me grief or stress. I usually spend some time on an outfit then just show up, take in what’s there, complain a little about the non-queers, the corporate floats and the lack of shade, but generally have a good time for the entire weekend.

Of course, prep for Pride now also involves packing a stroller, sunscreen, snacks, towels, a change of clothes, earmuffs, a camera and a bubble gun, which can be a pain. But I still look so forward to it. There have been bad years and good years, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I am largely in control of whether or not Pride goes well for me — not Pride Toronto, not all the other queers around me, not the cisgender straight men with their telephoto lenses. Me.

My life is pretty void of annual traditions. Andrea and I are pointedly unceremonious, resisters in a sea of family members who cling to annual events and plan meticulously, months in advance, for special occasions. I find that OCD goes two ways — people either obsess over every little detail, or (like me) throw up their hands and try never to repeat anything even close to the same way twice, lest this time be compared to that time and end up falling short. My cooking is a good testament to that philosophy. I find that queer people go two ways, too — people either work emphatically at queering existing traditions, or they harbour a deep-seated resentment towards them and vow never to take part.

Of course, all of us have customs. We loop all sorts of events in our daily lives without even thinking about them — Tim Hortons stops on long drives, pogos at The Ex, chocolate-dipped ice cream cones at Woodbine Beach. Fine, a lot of them seem to focus on food for me. But those other big, annual, ceremonious things are the practice of a specific kind of person, one with some sentimentality, some nostalgia, some sense of time and the inherent need to mark its passing. Which may be another reason I’m not into traditions — they remind me that time is passing, and then I put pressure on myself to have done something specific with that time. And I mean internal accomplishments: be more confident, be less jealous, be more Zen.

I suppose now that I have a child, I may be more driven to create traditions. Kids love repetition, knowing what is going to happen next, taking part in singing “Happy Birthday” and blowing out candles, making pancakes on Saturday morning and wearing themed one-piece pajamas on Christmas Eve.

The reason I often avoid traditions is because I can’t stand the expectations that come with them, how if something isn’t present, or isn’t just so, then it isn’t really… [insert occasion]. Plus, I struggle all the time to be someone I can love, and I feel sometimes like I stand still in the face of traditions, unable to change or move forward or reinvent myself. How different can you feel when everything around you is exactly the same? Still, even for me there is some comfort in repetition.

Like Pride, each event depends in a big way on being in the right headspace, and if I can learn to do tradition imperfectly, and presently, I may just be all right.