here at the corner of Church and Wellesley, I often joke that there are only
382 queers in Toronto; they just go out a whole hell of a lot. No matter the
party, coffee shop, bar, bathhouse, art event or fundraiser, I am bound to see
the same faces over and over again.
As much as I like most of these folks, the repeated exposure can lead me to
believe they represent a larger reality. I easily forget that out, artsy,
boozing, left-leaning, sexually-available urban queers who don’t have cable
aren’t the majority in this country.
Similarly, it is possible that our fellow Canucks, the rural folks whose only
exposure to gay life is through half-heard TV newscasts, might think that all
homosexuals are earnest, middle-aged white people perpetually lurking in
courtrooms in the hopes that their long-term relationship will be recognized.
Though this is certainly a more true and positive stereotype than, say, child
sexual predator, it’s one built by those with access to the law and media.
Bullied and suicidal transsexual youth living in rural communities haven’t been
able to capture the national imagination in quite the same way. Is it a
question of who hangs out with the right lawyers? Being a lawyer? Money? Is it
simply that marriage activist Michael Leshner is the reincarnation of US Civil
Rights activist Rosa Parks, whom he so often cites? I can see the T-shirts
In the mire of so many facile equations – Homos want to get married! Homos want
to have sex until they fall down! All transsexuals are sex workers! Gay men are
body fascists! Lesbians can’t be glamorous! Bisexuals just need to find the
right man! – comes Pride. This celebration has the power to turn the
stereotypes on their collective ears.
You can stand at the corner of Church and Wellesley this weekend and wonder:
Who the hell are all these people? Where do they come from? Why are they here?
Why don’t I know a single soul for as far as I can see? Don’t these strangers
have anything better to do?
But they come anyway. Go figure. And the world is a bigger, happier, sexier
place because of it.
Sure, SARS and the crappy spring weather might take a bite of the crowd this
year. What do you think? We’ll lose 50,000 of the 800,000 who attended last
year? That’s still 749,618 more queers and queer allies than live in my gay
little world. Or anybody’s little world, for that matter.
For a weekend, never mind all this talk of building community on the Internet.
Don’t worry about on-line newspaper polls. Or elections. Or stupid laws. Or
inhibitions. A large gathering of flesh and blood people still has real power.
Old-timers complain that Pride has lost its political edge. That’s probably
true. But in doing so it’s acquired a flexibility, a self-reflecting
inclusiveness that no hard issue – marriage, censorship, discrimination, sexual
freedom – can supply.
Pride celebrations draw out “our kind” with the power that institutions like
the media, bars or politics can only dream of. Right now, a teenager somewhere
is lying to his parents in order to dance down Yonge. A lesbian who married a
man is pretending she has an errand to run in the city. A closeted man is
deciding he’s actually going to talk to a man before he has sex with him. A
senior is crossdressing for the first time. Someone lonely in Northern Ontario
is starting her car for the long drive to Church And Wellesley to look for
If you can, try to say hi to these people this weekend. This may be their only
contact with queer life.
Sure, same-sex marriage is a legal victory. Yay. But it’s been an evolution,
not a revolution. Pride reminds us that we have other struggles beyond the
legal, other celebrations beyond the matrimonial.
And there are far more than 382 other people struggling and celebrating, too.
Paul Gallant is Managing Editor for Xtra.