2 min

Visiting Mike Harris at home

Seven days. Six cities. A van full of queers.

The Priscilla Queen Of The North tour, a project of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals And Transgendered Of U Of T (LGBTOUT), was a whirlwind drive around Ontario in early August inspired by the Aussie drag flick, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.

It was a diplomatic mission and we were queer ambassadors. We talked to anyone who would listen – gas station attendants, mall rats, hitchhikers – about homo life in Ontario and about the Lesbian, Gay, Bi Youth Line.

In North Bay, we ran amuck at the Heritage Day Festival with Gays, Lesbians And Bisexuals Of North Bay Area. My charming date-for-the-day won me stuffed animals. Two of our boys fed each other ice cream and homemade apple pie.

Jaws dropped. Eyeballs bulged. Entire groups of teenage boys shifted uncomfortably.

We visited Premier Mike Harris’s North Bay constituency office, leaving behind a youth line raffle ticket. We figured with the cuts his government has made to services for queer youth, the least he could do was buy one.

We passed through the Rainbow Tourist Region. Rainbow gas stops, restaurants and tourist shops were everywhere.

In Sault Ste Marie, our guys did safe sex outreach in the parks.

In the parking lot of Thunder Bay’s Intercity mall, we were greeted by local jerks.

“Fag boy!” shouted a voice from a passing car.

“Takes one to know one, closet case!” Bonte Minnema shouted back.

The car turned around. We got back in the van.

But later we took our anger out on the city. With Minnema behind the megaphone, we drove in circles challenging residents to make the city a queer-positive place.

Out And About in Thunder Bay threw a party in our honour. We hit the Back Street Klub and belted out “I Will Survive” at karaoke.

We sailed into Sudbury in time for the pre-Pride festivities. Zigs was packed with out-of-towners. Trays of rainbow Jell-o shooters abounded.

The next morning, the Priscilla-mobile was one of a handful of vehicles in the Pride parade.

This was Pride as we Torontonians had not seen it before – small, determined and defiant. No one lined the streets to cheer us on. Corporations didn’t trip over themselves to appear supportive. It was tense and exhilarating and, well, meaningful.

On Parliament Hill our banners and megaphone immediately caught the attention of the RCMP. We were informed we were not allowed to perform our lesbian wedding ceremony without a permit.

Minnema’s alter ego, the Reverend Rainbow, argued. Two backup cars arrived. But after an animated conversation, the exasperated officers gave in and we held the ceremony while roughly 100 tourists looked on. Some were thrilled, some were disgusted. We went for champagne.

In Cornwall, local queers gathered for an informal coffee house at the Nile. More park outreach.

We were kicked out of the Kataraqui mall in Kingston for distributing condoms, although we were assured that it had nothing to do with our “sexual origins.”

Exactly a week later, an exhausted but excited Priscilla rolled back into Toronto, inspired by the brave folk out there in this huge beautiful province, and more determined than ever to shake things down at home.

Priscilla can be reached at