A Pride Parade is more than just a parade.
When I was still closeted in Montreal, watching for my first time queers participate in the city’s annual Divers/Cité gave me a sense of pride and envy at the fun they were having. The parade gave me small peek into the lives many queers live. Everyone appeared carefree. Seeing these people celebrate their sexuality ignited my own rainbow flame. I wanted to be part of their celebration.
One year, I volunteered. Taking part on parade day also taught me the importance of people being involved in their own community. I didn’t have any gay friends, but it opened my eyes, my mind and my heart to my newfound community, one I never knew existed. It gave me a sense of self-confidence and self-acceptance for who I am and what I could do. But above all, the parade paved the way for my coming out two years ago. I’ve learned to love myself first since then.
Since my “birth” at Pride, I’ve developed a great sense of respect for everyone who takes part in it: the volunteers, the organizers, the performers and all those in between.
Last year, I took part in Montreal’s first night parade — a different approach to the same old parade that some long out people perhaps see as mundane and repetitive and mainly enjoyed by straight observers. I’m new at this and I refuse to be cynical.
This year, I took part in Toronto’s Pride Parade. It was huge. It was glamorous. It was fun. It had a million participants and observers, and I had a great time with the Xtra float, wearing my Capital Xtra shirt and shaking ass while dancing down the street.
And now, back to Ottawa, where our Pride Parade, the whole celebration, hangs on the word of a city council that doesn’t seem to get it that they we deserve equal access to bail-out cash as the Tulip Festival and Franco-Ontarien festival.
I’ve just moved here from Montreal. I’m a recent graduate of the journalism program at Concordia and Capital Xtra is my first real job in my field. I was so happy to move here, for the opportunity of doing journalism in the nation’s capital. For the chance to do my bit to help build the local queer community by writing about our issues and people and groups. Hearing that there might not be an official parade this year tells me a lot about my new city. It lacks a unified queer community. That Pride is in such a crisis speaks volumes about problems within their organization, problems between their organization and the community, and problems within a community that is clearly not doing its bit to keep its own events and institutions healthy.
It takes money, organizational talent, and volunteers to make Pride — or any other community event — a success. Other cities, some of them much smaller than Ottawa, can sustain their organizations without this perpetual sense of crisis.
We’ve got lots of government workers here, people with skills, talent and money. We’ve got business people who make money within the gay community and could give more back. We’ve got queer students who can donate time and ideas. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what’s been happening lately on the new community centre steering committee — all of the above.
Ottawa’s Pride record, on the other hand, is slowly losing its fabulousness. This year marks the 20th year that Ottawa displays for the world our Pride in living our lives, loving our loves. We’re Canada’s fourth largest city, yet it looks to this new arrival as if only a handful of people still have their flame glowing.
I’ll repeat what Pride chair Darren Fisher said in Capital Xtra’s May 18 issue: Pride is not just a party; it’s also a focal point for most of our community organizations for fundraising and raising awareness. We celebrate a lot that weekend.
I’m part of the next generation of queers. I’m still optimistic that a Pride Parade will happen Aug 27. That everyone will be unified in one voice. But for that to happen, it’s going to take a lot of us stepping up to the plate and saying, “I’m proud to be gay and I want to keep the rainbow flag flapping high even if there’s no wind blowing on it.”
How about you? What are you going to do to make this a good city in which to live out gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans lives?