My first Prides were during the 1990s in Winnipeg, where everyone marches in the parade. All the city’s magnificent queer people gather outside the legislative buildings in the centre of the city before walking as one vast group up Broadway Ave.
Back then no one ever forgot Pride was a demonstration. We screamed, whistled, danced and protested all the way through the centre of the city and back to the grass outside the legislature, where we collapsed and commenced our party.
Here in Toronto such a possibility does not exist; the parade is already too long. Imagine if all one million of us marched?
For this reason I’ve often had to remind myself come Pride Day in Toronto that it’s a demonstration as well as a celebration. This year Pride Toronto had the same idea; they made it their theme.
There are other reasons some of us will have to remember to think political this year, not least because we’ve made so many important gains over the past months.
In last year’s Pride issue Xtra looked at the unfinished project of gay activism, noting 25 battles that remained to be fought. Over the course of the past year, several of these battles have been won, including the promotion of gay-straight alliances in all schools, safer labour environments for sex workers (although there’s still work to be done on this front), and the addition of gender identity and gender expression to the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Pride — gay Christmas — is a bit like the beginning of a new gay year. And as the end of the last gay year draws to a close, there is a tangible sense of optimism, renewal and celebration in our community. And it is well deserved.
The end of this gay year showed us that politics matter at Pride, both before and after. Bad political leaders have got us engaged and our community has pressured more progressive political leaders to pass legislation that matters to us.
This year Xtra asked Pink Triangle Press staff members, past and present, to tell us their favourite thing about Pride. From mesh T-shirts to pornstars, the parades to increased sex drive, readers will see that the responses were overwhelmingly fun, celebratory and optimistic.
As Lucille Ball once said, “It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”
Karim, an intern from Jordan, came to Canada recently because he recognized what makes him happy and the trouble it will cause him back home. Karim’s response to our question is especially touching when you know he’s about to be forced to return to Jordan because his Canadian visa will soon expire and our government will not let him remain here if he does not have an employer willing to sponsor him.
“My favourite thing about Pride is I am going to experience it for the first time and enjoy the beautiful people that will be part of the 2012 celebration,” he told us.
This year I’ll be demonstrating for Karim and the hundreds of other queer people like him struggling to remain in Canada so they, too, can be happy.
While I might sometimes have to remind myself about the political side of Pride, gays and lesbians all around the world (including many in Canada) are not allowed to forget. They live in a permanent closet, worried every day about being found out, wishing for a day when they can fully embrace what it is they long ago decided makes them happy.
Promoting queer and human rights abroad and ensuring that gay refugee claimants get a fair shake in Canada are but two of many battles remaining to be fought. There are many more, including reducing state surveillance, ending the criminalization of HIV, creating a society free of violence and looking after aging queer people.
Take your pick.
But whatever you do this Pride, celebrate, for sure — just don’t forget to demonstrate.