CP24 asks “What does Pride mean to you?”
Pride this year celebrates the 40th anniversary of what most consider to be the biggest spark to the gay rights movement, the Stonewall Riots in New York. I was too young for that to have meant anything to me at the time but I well remember Toronto’s early Pride events. I came out as a direct result of the 1981 bath-house raids here, although I was not directly involved, and joined the growing protests against these raids in the ensuing weeks. It was later that summer that Pride here began to go from baby-steps to a full march, whether in army boots or stilettos.
Back then it was an act of defiance to take over Yonge Street and march. These days the city moves heaven and earth to block off streets for our festival, not just Yonge for the parades on Saturday and Sunday, but Church Street and side-streets and, for the huge parade on Sunday, there are streets blocked off just to park floats and rally groups together before the water-gun-soaked parade even starts. We’ve come a long way – from acts of defiance and protest to the point where we have to squeeze in more and more corporate floats and exhibits, who would have little to do with us those many years ago, just to pay for this internationally-renowned festival.
Pride means something else to me, something at my very core. I am still here. While many of my friends’ names are on the AIDS Memorial on Church Street, my diagnosis twenty years ago did not have the predicted results. Not yet anyway. I miss my friends. They were a part of Pride and, in their memory, they continue to be part of my Pride.
Here are a few things I didn’t include:
– the love and immeasurable support of Mom, Dad and my siblings when I came out,
– the story of my coming out, in the mid-80s, in a St. Catharines newspaper which totally flipped out the manager of the radio station where I worked
– despite all sorts of life-inhibiting/threatening activity on my part, I am part of a fellowship of friends, survivors and fellow travelers who only wish the best for me despite the twisted paths I have taken, and may still take, sometimes.