I haven’t been to LGBT Pride day for a while. Not because I’m not proud or sure of being lesbian–I am!–but because as an abuse/torture survivor there are a lot of things that trigger me, and one of them is crowds. I can get claustrophobic, and the last time I was at Pride–which is a big deal in Toronto, and people come from all over to attend–the crowds were so thick that at some point we couldn’t even move, just stood there while people kept pushing us from behind and the sides and … wow, that was hard. I don’t like to feel constrained or trapped–I had enough of that growing up. I also don’t like bumping into people who’ve abused me–and sadly, some of them are in the queer community–or getting triggered by seeing some things (like S&M) that remind me of abuse/torture I’ve been through. And I also don’t like the feeling of heterosexual tourists coming to gawk. I love supportive heterosexuals attending and showing their support, and there were many, but there are others, too, who just stare and not in a friendly way. So…I got a bit turned off Pride.
I used to go every year, before Pride Day got overwhelmingly large and taken over by corporations and became a tourist attraction. Before lesbians and gay men had the right to marry in Canada. I went every year when it felt political, important to make a statement: Yes, we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going away! When we were still fighting for basic rights and respect (though there is still more to fight for). I especially loved the Dyke March, which felt needed; Pride Day itself seemed more predominantly geared towards gay men, including all the advertising. I went, I enjoyed it (though always struggled through triggers), and it felt important. Political. But I haven’t been in a few years. I lost the sense of doing something political and positive and powerful. But that meant that I also lost some sense of community spirit and celebration.
Even in a big, mostly pro-queer city like Toronto, it’s easy to feel isolated if you don’t take part in events or have a good community around you. I’ve had rainbow decorations up on my door since the beginning of June, and my gay neighbor across the hall had his up a few weeks earlier. It felt good to see…but not enough. So this year I decided to go. I felt happy that Prop 8 was voted down in the US (but sad that it’s taken so long to get even that), proud of Canada for giving lesbians and gay men the right to marry years ago ahead of many countries, and in need of some community spirit and celebration. I’ve experienced some homophobia and sexism lately in my neighborhood, including one event that shocked me, and so I really felt the need for celebration and just…being surrounded by many LGBT people. And those experiences also reminded me that even here in Canada, where lesbians and gay men have had the right to marry since 2005, and in Toronto where there is a lot of open-mindedness, there are still homophobic people who need to be reminded that every person has the right to love who the want to love. LGBT Pride is still political–and with people seeing it on the news over and over each year, it becomes more and more accepted The norm. Once I’d decided to go with my little dog Petal, and found that my best friend Jo was going to go with me, I felt excited.
Going to Pride with my best friend Jo and my little dog Petal felt celebratory and fun–the way it should. And yet it also felt necessary–there is still homophobia that we’re all pushing against, oppression that we face. It’s important to have celebration and a sense of community, and days where it feels like there isn’t any homophobia at all. AND it’s important for heterosexuals to keep seeing us and being aware of us in large numbers…to know that we are a part of society. That we are part of “normal.”
Jo, Petal, and I attended Pride during the big Pride Parade. Since we couldn’t see anything–we were rows and rows behind people–we decided to walk around. It was a great idea, because most people were at the parade, so there was actually room to move around, to breathe, to take in the sights. And for me, that helped make it feel safer, easier, and truly fun.
I loved seeing all the festive rainbow decorations in stores and booths and on the streets, loved seeing all the people dressed up to celebrate, including some women who wore rainbow wings, loved seeing the variety of lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer people out there and some of our supporters. Loved seeing how many resources there are here to help people, and also different ways to celebrate and affirm our LGBTQ community.
But the best part? Being with my best friend and my little dog, being part of a celebration and feeling the good feeling all around. The sun was hot, almost burning, so it was fun to walk into booths that sprayed misty water and cooled us down. I loved going to the Photo Kissing Booth and having Sean Howard, a professional photographer, take a beautiful photo of Jo and me and Petal. It makes me feel so good to look at.
I loved people coming up to Petal (carried in my pouch–she doesn’t like crowds, either, and I didn’t want her to get stepped on) and patting her, stroking her, making much of her. Petal loved that, too (grinning). She always loves attention. And when Jo carried Petal for a bit, the same thing happened. Petal draws people who love dogs!
I loved having my photo taken a few times with Jo and Petal–my extended, chosen family–and getting buttons made from it. Loved seeing the political booths–anti-bullying, LGBT support, P-Flag (yay!), LGBT deaf communities–all mixed in with the also political but more celebratory queer t-shirt, button, bracelet, and do-dad booths. Rainbow flags were everywhere! And, looking up at the street signs at Church & Wellesley–our gay community area–I was proud of Toronto and Canada all over again for adding rainbows permanently to our street signs. (My cell froze on that photo, sadly.)
I also loved the SuperQueer T-shirt that Jo bought me. I love superheros, and I’m proud of being who I am and not hiding that I’m a lesbian, and Jo knows me well enough to know that that T-shirt would immediately appeal to me.
I am happy I attended Pride this year, happy I went with my good friend and little dog, and found a work-around so that it wasn’t mixed in with triggers. This is the first time it’s felt completely, totally safe AND a really happy celebration; it felt healing for me–and still political. Still a reminder to Toronto homophobes, Canada, the world, that we are here, we’re queer, and we’re not going away.