It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Other folks declare Oscar night or Halloween “gay Christmas,” but for me that title is reserved exclusively for the end of June: our nights are filled with anticipation, our social calendars are nearly unmanageable (don’t be afraid to click “not attending” on Facebook events; it makes life much easier for everyone), and we wear clothes that we would never wear any other time of the year. Surrounded by our chosen or blood families, we wake up on the big day eager to have the time of our lives, indulging in the things that make us happy, even though they may not be the healthiest, and reenacting traditions.
For both Christmas and Pride, it’s the social factor that is most fascinating to me. Yes, we’re a loving community that supports and watches out for each other, but if you take more than a million queers and jam them into a few small blocks of city and sell them tickets to the same few parties, there’s bound to be more fireworks than Victoria Day at Ashbridges. I once watched a couple do nothing but break up in front of everyone for the entire weekend: if you’ve ever suffered through a Christmas-dinner family argument, imagine that but add sequins, feathers, some vicious face slaps, and stretch it out over a few days. Starting on Friday, all day and night on Saturday, all through the parade, and then, mercifully, ending on O’Grady’s patio at 1am, these poor, unfortunate gay boys screamed and accused and fought, to the cackling delight of many an onlooker. Pride is the time of year when our hookups/breakups are entirely spectator sports.
Music is also a hugely important part of both holidays (and yes, I know Pride is a holiday this year only because it coincides with Canada Day, but frankly, we all know that queer pride trumps national pride in terms of fabulosity). Christmas gives us carols, anthems and secular tunes, and Pride gives us much the same. Instead of praying at church, I will be worshipping at the temple of En Vogue as they finally grace the Blockorama stage after many years of efforts to book them. Will they open or close the service with “Free Your Mind,” the ’90s tune that can still turn out a dancefloor? Mine eyes may not see the glory of the coming of Dawn Robinson (the group’s former lead singer), but it’s the music of En Vogue that makes me feel the spirit, not the individuals.
One day, I’d love to be able to take a look back through everyone’s memory books of Pride nights past. What would yours include? Some of mine: Deee-Lite’s Lady Miss Kier pinching my nipples in the DJ booth at The Barn (yes, she was gentle and yes, it was caught on camera). RuPaul’s less-than-gracious behaviour at Circa (although it was pre-Drag Race . . . wonder if she’s happier now?). Deborah Cox’s divine headlining set. Kissing that American singer. A game of spin-the-bottle stretching half a city block. Getting caught in the rain and having to dry off under the hand dryers at Burger King. And those are just the fun ones. Like Christmas, it’s all about who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. Pride is also the time of year when you run into people you haven’t seen in years, except you can’t say hi because they’re on a sling and . . . occupied. In more ways than one.
Although many people see Pride as an instant-gratification celebration of the hedonistic here and now, I’d love it if we all took a moment to remember our comrades, friends, lovers and family who are no longer. In the same way that departed family members are sorely missed at Christmas dinner and the ghost of Christmas past haunts every corner, it’s impossible for me to enter the Pride season without thinking of the many spectres that I wish were around to celebrate with. May we ever so slightly disturb their eternal rest with our earthly revels, for Pride is also the time of year when, more than ever, we need to embrace our personal and collective histories.