Toronto
3 min

The best & worst of Pride

Here’s one for the headlines: Straight Columnist Complains Pride Too Tame.

Reviewing this year’s parade, Star columnist Rosie DiManno said it wasn’t sufficiently “rude, lewd and crude.” She was probably right. There was definitely less flesh and flash than in years gone by. Most days Church St looked like a Kiwanis convention.

Typical, I think, was a high-flying friend from Vancouver who showed me his multiple sets of earplugs. He and his boyfriend were doing the major party thing – circuit parties, hotel suites, expensive restaurants – but they’re essentially responsible-citizen types and they weren’t going to go deaf from loud music in the process.

In short, it was a humpy dumpy Pride, full of energy but not much excitement, which suited me just fine. If the event didn’t make any major advances, it certainly seemed to operate more smoothly than in years gone by.

On a personal level, I’d like to thank the hordes of tourists for making this my cheapest Pride ever. With them in the city, I felt no obligation to support the local economy. Most nights on Church the lineups outside the bars were so long I went home early and drank for free. I saved a bundle.

On a more serious note, I’d like to offer thanks for a number of small but pleasant innovations.

l Pride’s toonie stickers. Easily the slickest marketing move in the organization’s history. I’ve always liked the idea of Pride’s toonie drive, since it’s a simple grassroots way to support a complex event. But they’ve never given me a good concrete reason to contribute. This year they did. Every second person was wearing a sticker that said “Fag,” “Queen,” “Bear” or some other terse moniker and I wanted one, too. So did a lot of other people, apparently. The “Str8” stickers were selling especially well, said a leather-clad sticker salesman. “They really want you to know who they are”

l The Canadian Lesbian And Gay Archives’ history display. Divided into bite-size bits of info built around a number, the display brought new meaning to the phrase, “Betcha can’t read just one.” Lots of people stopped and lot of people got the message (I hope) that history is important, the archives promotes it and the organization is going to need a lot of money to fund its upcoming move to its new Isabella St home. Not bad for a history lesson

l The art shows. Though none that I attended were my cup of tea, I was glad somebody (various somebodies, actually) took the trouble to pull them together. This is the direction Pride ought to be headed in: less of a sex show, more of an arts and cultural festival. If somebody were smart, they’d move the Inside Out fest to the week before Pride and give us all a good reason to take two weeks off work.

There were annoyances, of course, chief among them the rip-off beer prices in the beer gardens. (It’s a giant beer promotion, for God’s sake. They should be giving the stuff away.)

As usual, the biggest nuisance was government. Like most people, I’ve experienced the humiliation of Ontario’s infantile liquor regulations – “No sir, you can’t take your beer into the washroom” – but I’ve never actually seen the enforcement process in action. That changed on Pride Saturday, when I spotted two inspectors bugging a couple of bar managers.

There were two of them, both wearing gold sheriff-style badges over their street clothes. One made officious notes in his PDA while the other kvetched about people with booze passing through an unlicensed area. The area in question was all of about five feet wide and impossible to avoid if you wanted to get from one side of the bar to another without going the long way around. The doors on either side of the area were open to promote the easy circulation of air and people.

One of the managers looked like he was about to split a gut.

“Were the liquor guys harassing you?” I asked.

“No,” he said, “they were just doing their job, and I just say, ‘Yes sir, no sir.'”

“They don’t usually come in all that often during Pride, do they?” I asked the other manager.

“Four times a day,” he said.

It would be different if any of these bozos were doing anything useful, like ensuring people’s safety. But what they’re really doing is propping up an historical anachronism. Most of the current regulations governing the sale of alcohol echo yesterday’s fears (the “demon rum”) and most could be happily jettisoned. We need some regulations, like capacity limits which are a safety issue. But most of the other stuff needs a rethink. We already have police and bylaw enforcement officers. Why do we need liquor inspectors?

If there is any truth to the rumour that the province wants to encourage tourism in this city, these guys should be put out to pasture pronto. The days are long past when Torontonians expect to be treated like children just because they’re having a drink.