This year’s Pride festivities oozed love and joy. Imagine hundreds of thousands of people crowded into city streets, with booze flowing freely – and nary a brawl. Sure, there was the occasional lovers’ spat – unfortunate incidents of embarrassing public whining – but that’s about it.
Some of this high-spirited revelry can be attributed to the accident of our general good nature. But much of it was by design.
This year’s Pride committee demonstrated a new level of organizational expertise, paving the way for a smooth celebration. The committee deserves accolades for its smart planning decisions. Their clever arrangement of space meant an end to the suffocating, panic-inducing crowd congestion of the past few years. Church St bustled as one big street party, uncluttered by community and business kiosks, which moved to Wellesley and adjacent parking lots. Raised stages meant easier viewing for larger groups of people, and allowed strollers ease of movement beneath.
Sunday’s parade was a particular marvel. Rumours that the number of entrants had doubled from last year had many groaning about bringing flashlights to see the parade finish – after dark. But Pride’s marshals made sure participants were ready to go, and kept the procession moving at a good clip, with few gaps or hesitations.
There’s always room for improvement. In particular, corporate sponsors need some rules. Corporate billboards should not be permitted as floats. Period. Once, it may have been audacious for mainstream businesses to associate with homosexuals in a public way. But we have moved on, thankfully, and no longer shall we endure an assault of bald advertising masquerading as culture. If corporate sponsors want to contribute to the parade, they should sponsor a community entry, or go to the trouble of producing a creative, gay-themed float.
And, although many nudists wandered freely throughout the weekend, in full view of police, the issue needs closure. The Pride committee should decide to accept nudists, and demand that the city promise non-interference with nude participants. Human bodies are not obscene. Period.
Last week, Xtra published a special edition – our first since the defeat of the provincial spousal rights bill in 1994 – to alert the community of two police raids on the Bijou cinema. Twelve men were charged with indecency.
In recent years, charges against patrons having sex in Toronto bars have been extremely rare. And, although police say they have no intentions of raiding the baths, it remains unclear how police distinguish between the Bijou and a bathhouse. It now appears that the city is using other means to continue harassing the Bijou.
Charges against gay men for consensual sex and harassment of gay establishments are unacceptable. Period. We need assurances from our city politicians that these charges will be dropped and that there will be no further raids.
The week before Pride, a CBC reporter asked me about the shift in the mood of Pride over the years, from one of protest to one of celebration. I responded that people are now enjoying the freedoms brought about by those protests – that the change reflects our progress and that celebrating freedom is politically important, too. But I noted that the mood could easily shift – that if our situation changes, our gatherings could easily swing into a powerful show of force.
It was so nice to see hundreds of thousands of homosexuals celebrating freely at Pride. I’d hate to see us change our mood to teach the city and the cops a lesson. But if we have to, we will.
David Walberg is Publisher for Xtra.