Over the Rainbow: Toronto Pride 2011 – blogUT

While Pride Week (which is actually 10 days) is filled with events including comedy nights, concerts, and the Trans and Dyke Marches, the annual Sunday Pride Parade is definitely the most recognized event of the Week.

It’s loud.
It’s crowded.
And there are hot, sweaty bodies rubbing against hot, sweaty bodies, which guarantees an all-around good time for everyone.

Seriously though, it’s a great time, and I think that every Torontonian should make it out at least once to see what all the excitement is about. Because – let’s be honest here – naked people walking down the street and condoms and beads falling from the sky like colourful little snowflakes are things to get excited about.

Me at my first Pride in 2007.

Apparently Pride Toronto’s website actually crashed the night before the Parade because it got so many hits, and it’s believed that more than 1 million people made it out on Sunday. As expected, Mayor Rob Ford did not grace us with his presence. That being said, there were more than enough Ford impersonators to make up for his absence. As well, former Mayor David Miller’s attendance showed us that it is, in fact, possible to put off family time for two hours to show support for a significant population of the city. And that was WITHOUT NOW Magazine offering to pay for his transportation to and from the Parade.

Pride Week is generally recognized as a time to celebrate and embrace all gender and sexual identities, which the Pride website sums up as LGBTTIQQ2SA – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, 2-Spirited and Allies. However, Pride has come to mean a lot more than just celebrating sexuality – it’s become a time to celebrate every aspect of individuality and diversity within Toronto. It’s not just about tolerating differences, but accepting and appreciating them. It’s about learning to love yourself and learning to love others.

Gwendolyn Ann Smith says it better than I ever could when she writes, ‘We live in a world of incredible variations, where there are some 200,000 species of moths and butterflies to be found in this planet, where one can find snowy ice caps and boiling cauldrons of lava, and where biodiversity is the very thing that keeps the whole complex system in tune. The notion of classifying things and then claiming that only this or that is a proper version of some being is a distinctly human construct, full of arrogance and hubris’ (‘We’re All Someone’s Freak’, in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation). Looking at it like that, the belief that people can be neatly split into two categories – heterosexual men and heterosexual women (and then there’s all that those terms imply) – seems ludicrous, doesn’t it? Chances are, few of us are actually going to live up to what society wishes we were, and that’s okay. To me, that’s what Pride is about. It’s about realizing that we’re all different and realizing that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
And we get to see Rob Ford squirm.

This year was my fifth Pride and, every year following the celebration, I have the same conversation with my grandmother. She always makes a comment something along the lines of, ‘I don’t think being gay is a big deal anymore. I think that most people feel the way I do – just live and let others live’. My grandmother is great in that she accepts one’s sexuality as innate and that everyone deserves to be treated the same, but she (and she’s not alone on this one) doesn’t seem to understand that issues surrounding LGBTTIQQ2SA rights and respect have not gone away. As stated by Julia Serano in ‘Performance Piece’ (which can also be found in Gender Outlaws), ‘It’s easy to fictionalize an issue when you’re not aware of the many ways in which you are privileged by it’. The reality is that people who do not abide by the heterosexual male/female binary continue to be physically, verbally, emotionally, and sexually abused, bullied, excluded, and discriminated against. This has been especially prominent in the news this year with the media coverage of a number of homosexual teenagers’ suicides, but it can also be seen in the reexamination and reconsideration of gay marriages and divorces in Canada and in the United States’ ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy in regards to gay military service. While circumstances have no doubt improved for those who don’t fit the heteronormative mold, we still haven’t reached the point where we can sit back and relax when it comes to these issues. That’s precisely why Pride is so important – it raises awareness of these issues while having a fun (and sexy) time.

Despite the debates regarding funding, the QuAIA controversy, and Rob Ford’s ‘cottaging’ (which is actually British slang that refers to anonymous gay sex in a public washroom… good on ya, Rob), I think that the 2011 Pride Parade (and the entire 2011 Pride Week) was a success and I’m sure that, as we near the 2014 World Pride hosted in Toronto, it’ll just keep getting better.

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