This year, organizers of Halifax Pride say they want to keep it clean.
In the June 2 Halifax Metro newspaper, Pride organizers say they’re aiming for a “new professionalism” and to host a festival “that has things that will benefit everyone.”
“That’s what we strive for, to make it less promiscuous than other Prides across the country,” Halifax Pride Festival co-chair Ed Savage said. “Our way of life in the Maritimes is different. And we also feel that our allies and our family aspect of Pride are just as important.”
Xtra could not reach Savage for comment. Halifax Pride is July 17 to 24.
Randall Perry, editor of Wayves, a gay, lesbian and trans magazine in Nova Scotia, has a problem with Pride becoming “less promiscuous. What does that even mean?” He says Pride has always been a celebration of sexuality, “all sexualities.”
“I’m not sure where Ed is coming from by saying he wants it to be less promiscuous,” he says. “Halifax Pride is fairly tame in terms of having a sexually charged atmosphere.”
Perry says any attempt to bring in more people is a good thing, but the festival shouldn’t be sanitized.
“Family-friendly is just another term for ‘No sex please, we’re British,’” he says. “Are we just supposed to be boring fags that fuck in our beds?”
Unlike Ontario, women are not permitted to go topless in Nova Scotia, he says. And nudists?
“We don’t have anything like TNTmen in Toronto… Sexuality should not be something to be frightened of.”
Savage told Metro the goal is to double the amount of people participating in the post-parade party. Held at Garrison Grounds directly after the parade, the event includes a stage show, a market of vendors, artists’ displays and cold drinks.
Among the new additions to the festival will be a play area for children. Organizers tell Metro they would like at least 20,000 to 30,000 to join the post-parade party.
Mary Burnet, the organizer for the Halifax Dyke & Trans March, who also works at Venus Envy in Halifax, says cleaning Pride up for mass consumption could very well bring more people and revenue to the party, but it comes at the cost of alienating many people in the queer community.
“I don’t feel represented by Pride organizers who prioritize the presence of police and corporate floats over members of the queer community,” she says, adding that many participants don’t want to “assimilate to these professional and less promiscuous norms.”
At Menz Bar in Halifax, bartender Mark Lawton says it’s not such a bad idea to cover up some of the skin showing at Pride.
“These days there’s more gay couples adopting children, and you’re seeing more kids at Pride… It makes sense. These days, children’s innocence is taken away at such a young age.”
But Perry says he gets his back up when people start talking about making Pride “family-friendly.” The term is often attached to religious and social conservative groups.
“It’s been trotted out for so many years to put us down, to keep queers as second-class citizens. Often hate groups have the word ‘family’ in their mission statement. Queers have families too, and often just as dysfunctional.”
“If you don’t want children to see what celebration is like, by all means keep them at home,” he says. “But every Pride I’ve ever been to in Halifax, there’s always been loads of kids.”
Like Burnet, Maggie Haywood, owner of Venus Envy in Halifax, says the “new professionalism” could indicate the festival is shifting to a more corporate focus.
Haywood says she’s most confused by the language used by Savage. Words like “professionalism” and “less promiscuous” is worrisome, she says, especially since there’s already very little nudity. “I think our parade is already pretty family-friendly.”
“I really appreciate diversity in Pride. It’s a time when people can express themselves, and I don’t think any of that is at odds with being family-friendly.”
A similar controversy happened in Winnipeg in 2009. Before the festival, the Pride committee warned participants to keep it “family-friendly” after an unidentified person lodged a complaint with local police, but participants simply vowed to ignore the warning.