If Pride was nothing but a date scrawled on a calendar, they would come.
That’s all the 20th annual Pride celebration was on Friday night – a lost chunk of street with barricades at either end. And yet they came by the hundreds, filling up the ghetto. Strolling and hugging old friends and making new ones. Up and down, smiling and talking.
We broke the law. Drag queens were out on Wellesley with squeegees despite the Tory Safe Streets Act. The crowd was chanting an illegal solicitation: “Tip! Tip! Tip!”
On the side of the angels, the Cabbagetown Group Softball League’s fundraising beer garden was already going on strong in a parking lot, drag queens on stage, singing or shrieking happily (the money goes to August’s international softball championships, to be held in Toronto). Many watched from the street.
Church was packed non-stop, with everyone checking out the main drag all weekend. Or almost everyone.
Just before the Sat, Jun 24 Dyke March, panhandler Teresa Pastuch was begging for change in a doorway on College, with a cane and an empty cardboard coffee cup for company.
“Write that I think the parade’s a great thing,” she said. She was going over to check out the fun later – she said she had to make a bit of money, first.
There were no barricades along Yonge St for the Dyke March – and with nothing separating watchers from marchers, many joined right in as the last of the march went by. One fan said God is a lesbian because many women were wearing white – and the lord made it rain.
Sixteen Dykes On Bikes (primly wearing their helmets!) led the march, joined by a single skateboarder and a grrrl on a bicycle. Then came the Dyke March banner, and the Bisexual Women Of Toronto.
For the first time, the Dyke March had its own float – ancient poet Sappho’s Isle Of Lesbos, with women dressed as our lesbian foremothers… signs pasted to the stage listed them off: singer Melissa Etheridge, comic Ellen DeGeneres, activist and author Angela Davis and Goodwife Norman, circa 1649, charged with “lewd behaviour upon a bed.”
Pride co-chair Tami Kazan got her red car in (sporting a vanity plate bought the first day they were available, it reads 76VETTE). Kazan was watching sexy blow-up dolls Rain and Muffin necking in the passenger seat. We’re not sure what Kazan was doing in her own seat….
“Look at all those women behind me! They’re all single!” yelled one woman with a microphone. The Toronto Rape Crisis Centre was back with a much smaller float this year – sadly, Deb Parent still had her shirt on as of Gloucester St. And Femme Pride stickers were handed out: “If the girl next door looked like this, I would never have left home,” read one.
Afterwards, there was a “womyn only” space in Cawthra Square Park. A fence covered in black garbage bags kept (gay men?) from seeing inside (there were a few holes picked through the material).
Many walked along the nearby AIDS Memorial, reading the plaques.
Over at the Fruit Loopz youth stage inside Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, an emcee asked a roomful of youths if anyone was homeless. “Nobody should be sleeping on the streets tonight, it’s Pride. Queer scouts are camping at U of T. Just come crash with us.”
By Sun, Jun 25, most the helium-filled rainbows on Church were gone (the balloons sank because of the weight of Saturday’s rain). No one seemed to notice.
The rainbow moose had a two-foot penis, later removed for its parade appearance.
The Big Brother Of The Year, a gay man named Shawn Proulx (and looking stunning with no top and a lime green skirt) was recruiting more big brothers (his own little charge didn’t come to Pride because “he’s shy,” said Proulx).
Democrats In Canada were looking to sign up citizens to vote in the upcoming US elections; other community booths were given over to Dharma Friends (a lesbian and gay Buddhist meditation group), the Riverdale Curling Club and a collection of French-language services (a health centre and a college). The Lambda Car Club showed off some its members’ more snazzy cars, and firefighters were selling their calendar (with profits to charity). Autographed copies read, “Call me – 911.”
Others had different ideas. One man’s T-shirt read: “In case of emergency, clutch pearls.”
Even though the parade route was extended down to Dundas, the sidewalks were packed and there was no room to watch. A guy with a ladder was charging $20 for the privilege on clambering up onto a roof with a view.
Grand Marshal Sky Gilbert, in faerie pink with a magic wand, had his own car; alongside was chauffeured fellow Grand Marshal Michelle Douglas (with lawyer David Corbett of the Foundation For Equal Families), waving madly.
For the first time, the Toronto Police and the Ontario Provincial Police had squad cars as part of the parade (driven by Const Judy Nosworthy and OPP officer Natalie Osadchy).
Mayor Mel Lastman upgraded from a watergun to a hose. Marilyn Monroe skated by; The Fruit Cocktail fruit were there; Toronto Hydro had a float; the Royal Ontario Museum sent pharaohs. There was the Black Coalition For AIDS Awareness and gay pilots, queer pagans and a group that was “clean, sober and proud,” and the Latin American Coalition Against Racism. Amnesty International members held up signs with the photographs of lesbians, gay men and transgendered folk in trouble in Turkey, Romania and Texas.
The Bleecker Street Co-op had a banner; as did the humane society, Bear Buddies, the radical animal rights group Ark II; another banner read Vegetarians Taste Best. There were people from the Ontario Nurses Association, Brampton, a school in Etobicoke and McMaster University. Youth groups galore, Gay Asians Toronto, the Muslim El-Fatiha.
While the homophobic Seventh Day Adventists were preparing to hold their international conference across town, the church’s gay support group Kinship International had a banner in the parade.
Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity zoomed in and some members doffed their loinclothes, letting it all hang out. There were no arrests for nudity.
The parade took two hours and 10 minutes from the very start to the time the very last float crossed the finish line. There were 80 community groups and some 6,000 marchers.
And there were 100-plus vehicles; 25 were actual floats (last year had only 38 vehicles in total). “The parade was on wheels,” said media spokesperson Martin Zibauer. Many were cars or vans.
And there were a lot of corporate floats – a grocery store, bottled water, two condo developments, alcohol galore. But those big-money companies didn’t displace the community. The three floats that won prizes were all small groups from within, likely funded by bar nights or raffles.
The Committee Award, for the most entertaining float, went to Grupo Latino Hola
The Pride Award, for best celebration of Pride, went to Two-spirited People Of The First Nations, an aboriginal gay and lesbian group
The Judges Choice, for best celebration of the theme (Heroic Past, Proud Future) went to Heart, a float put together by a group of friends for fun.
The judges for the parade were PFLAG moms (Parents, Families And Friends Of Lesbians And Gays) Catherine Bergey, Margaret Nosworthy and Eve Foster.
See y’all next year!
If Pride was nothing but a date scrawled on a calendar, they would come.