I choke up as soon as they roar by me.
Their engines revving, their smiles bright and proud. It feels like coming home again.
At least for a little while.
It’s amazing how much the parade still means to me after all these years. I remember my first Pride parade in Vancouver, six years ago. The wonder of walking to the end of my block and into a sea of gay. The thrill of immersing myself in community, in our celebration of self, of flesh and fun, skin and sexuality. The feeling of belonging, of being part of a greater whole, of finding my place.
Now that I live and work in an oasis of gay all the time, I thought I might need the parade less this year; that I might not choke up. Boy, was I wrong!
I laugh at the sheer joy of Pride, at the knowledge that no matter where I move in this city, I take this confidence to be myself, and live my life my way, with me. It’s one of the many gifts this community has given me.
The dykes on bikes soon make way for the grand marshals and I choke up again as I wave to Tomasz Baczkowski, whose Pride parades in Poland must look nothing like this.
Immediately behind Baczkowski comes the Rainbow Refugee Committee in a powerful and moving tribute to all those queers around the world who cannot march openly themselves. “Marching for those who can’t,” reads one sign; others follow with statistics about countries that still criminalize homosexuality.
The scene shifts, the moment passes. Here come some cops handing out beads, followed by their recruitment van (how times have changed!), and a fire truck with a drenched woman in uniform throwing water balloons at the willing crowd.
Here comes our queer parks commissioner, Spencer Herbert, boldly pushing his own wheelbarrow in front of the official city council entry, with a sign on the front that says “End the strike now.”
Mayor Sam Sullivan and a handful of councilors follow behind.
More colourful entries follow. The glow begins to wear off. The parade starts to drag.
A Royal LePage float asks me if I’m looking for a house with a bigger closet. BC Hydro urges me to use energy more responsibly. Women in bunny ears and tails better suited to the Playboy mansion urge me to sign up for AZZ Wireless. Fatburger urges me to buy their food.
Now on the one hand, I suppose I might be pissed if businesses on Denman, that make a lot of money off our community, didn’t pay tribute to us in the Pride parade. But really, I wonder, what is the purpose of this parade?
It used to be an expression of self, a courageous act of boldly stepping forth and declaring our sexuality to the world, like us or not. Now it’s a place to be seen by businesses eager to capitalize on our cash.
Meanwhile the ratio of skin and sexuality seems to be dropping as the number of moving ads increase. What is happening to our Pride parade? Have we forgotten its purpose, lost touch with the celebration of self that once lay at its core?
This year’s parade seemed pretty tame to me. Sure, our bars flashed a little flesh from their floats, and the Cutting Edges guys writhed cutely on the pavement in their mock glove-dropping tussles, and the Pacific Canadian Association of Nudists still had the courage to show their Pride, and Velvet Steele injected a little much needed raunch into the proceedings —but overall there was very little of the spirited celebration I loved six years ago.
What happened to our celebration of gay culture, of flesh and fun, skin and sexuality? Is this really the direction we want to take? Or is this the direction selected by a handful of people elected to run our parade?
With our 30th parade now right around the corner, this is the time to decide what shape we’d like our Pride to take.
Before our big anniversary of self-celebration gets submerged in a sea of ads that have little to do with who we are and why we took to the streets in the first place.