Yes, there is a Pride this year. Yes, it almost didn’t happen.Yes, city councillors and the mayor can take a lot of blame for not treating the gay community’s annual festival the same way they’ve treated other festivals that approached them in crisis.
Yes, the Pride Committee of Ottawa-Gatineau isn’t perfect. Yes, they accumulated major debt between 2002 and 2004. Yes, they made mistakes last year as well, though last year’s festival broke even. I dare say they even made mistakes this year. Who hasn’t?
Yes, a lot of us are mad at the Pride Committee and for a wide variety of reasons. Of particular note, the relationship with the local business community is horrible, and it shouldn’t be. And the relationship with other community groups isn’t all great, either.
Yes, we all, as individuals and as a community, need to spend some time in self-reflection. Because if we don’t reflect a little. If we all just keep going the way we’re going, doing what we’re doing, if we all just keep on living our history of grievance or withdrawal and boycott, then the Pride festival and a bunch more of our community institutions will disappear from Ottawa. If you live history, you get more of the same. This is especially true if you keep living a history of negativity.
We all need to come to terms with the fact that we almost lost Pride this year. Or at least a Pride with a parade and festival — something else, something very grassroots and attracting very limited numbers of people, would have arisen from our community, of course. But Pride does not happen of its own — there’s no perpetual motion machine feeding the annual festival.
We came to terms with that at Capital Xtra on the day that city council voted to not give the festival the $20,000 in cash it needed to pay upfront for insurance and a few other goodies (insurance costs have risen from about $700 a year prior to 9/11 to some $16,000 today). We offered the board a loan of $20,000, repayable after this year’s festival is over. After hesitating, the board accepted the loan, and we called a press conference so that our community could make plans to be in town that weekend, and so that we could challenge you, yes you, to do your bit.
The media wanted to know why we did it.
We did it for all those teenagers standing on the side of the parade route, seeing our community having fun, building friendships, revelling in their sexuality, living their lives as happy and out people. We did it for all the younger children watching the parade on TV and realizing that they are not alone, that others feel the same way as they do and that they’re good people, too. We did it for all the married and closeted people observing the festival and gathering the courage to do what they need to do to have self-actualizing lives. We did it for all the out queers who need an excuse to let down our hair and party. We did it for all the trans people who still don’t have rights and are still discriminated against in jobs and often live in poverty. We did it for the statement it makes as we party past the Supreme Court of Canada and Parliament: that we will not go back, that the only direction we will accept is forward. We did it because our lives are still censored by bad laws. We did it because Canada’s capital must have a Pride celebration including a parade. We did it because we’ve lost too many organizations in Ottawa (Act Out Theatre and Making Scenes, for example), and because it’s time to draw a line and start rebuilding.
That’s why we did it.
And that’s why we’re now challenging to make a list of your own reasons why you think Pride is valuable. And to open your wallet and find a way to send the Pride Committee $5, $10, $20. If you make what you know in your heart is a decent salary, please dig deeper and find $100, $250, $500 or $1000. Really. Isn’t that cheap for helping to create a city that welcomes our next generation into its fold regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression? If you have no money, volunteer your time — they need help from now right through the festivities.
Now you know. If you don’t contribute, you can’t say you weren’t aware of how close we were to losing an annual celebration in a G8 capital. Your capital. Your home.
See you at Pride.